A few scattered links

As a break from Italy news this week, I thought I’d add a few links to things I’ve been reading.

Authenticity of Trove of Pollocks and Rothkos Goes to Court, Patricia Cohen (NY Times): This article is an interesting study in glamour, judgment, and credulity in Manhattan art world and further afield.  There’s also an air of mystery novel about it. There was a screaming question in my mind as I read it, though, so see if one leaps out at you, too.  (The NY Times offers 20 free article per month, but even after that, you can sort of read over the subscription message that comes up.  Plus, I think there was an exemption of some sort for links, but I’m not sure whether the link sender has to have a subscription.  We don’t.)

The New American Divide, by Charles Murray (WSJ): This is a sample from Charles Murray’s new book, Coming Apart.  I could have chosen any of about a dozen reviews I’ve read of this book, but I finally decided on an excerpt from the book itself.  I can’t read Coming Apart until Bob brings back a copy from New York in March (he wants a paper copy), but I find the thesis, that American is dividing into an elite class and an underclass, both compelling and disturbing.  Having spent my first years in a once-prosperous small town that has now been almost eviscerated, and having also lived in Manhattan for almost 14 years, I can see at least some truth in what he’s saying.  Whether or not I will agree with his prescriptions, I don’t know.

A side note: Murray is himself controversial because he co-wrote The Bell Curve, and because he is a Libertarian, but what some people may not realize is that he is not a “right-wing” Evangelical.  He is probably taken for one at times because he makes moral prescriptions in his books.  But a more truthful description of Murray might be “agnostic Libertarian statistician.”  I am none of those, but still think he might have something worthwhile to say.

My Stardust Memories, by William Zinsser (The American Scholar): I don’t remember where I came across this one, but it was just an entertaining read.  Zinsser is the author of On Writing Well, which I enjoyed reading a couple of years ago, so I liked coming across an extra essay of his.

Next Time, Try ‘Unflagging,’ Geoff Dyer, (NY Times): At the risk of running out your stash of free NY Times articles, I’ll add this one, too. It’s on the overuse of the word “tireless” in journalism.  My favorite part, though, was an incidental anecdote:  When asked about his position in literature, Vladimir Nabokov’s reply was, “Jolly good view from up here.”

Happy reading!

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2 thoughts on “A few scattered links

  1. some people may not realize is that he is not a “right-wing” Evangelical. He is probably taken for one at times because he makes moral prescriptions in his books.

    Laura,

    I think what tends to drive people to distraction is that Murray doesn’t so much prescribe morality as make pragmatic (and generally unarguable) observations about the consequences of both morality and the lack of it. It’s harder to ignore your critics when they limit themselves to serving up cold, hard facts and leave you to reach the inevitable conclusions.

    I haven’t read the book yet, but I saw this excerpt:

    “There remains a core of civic virtue and involvement in working-class America that could make headway against its problems if the people who are trying to do the right things get the reinforcement they need not in the form of government assistance, but in validation of the values and standards they continue to uphold. The best thing that the new upper class can do to provide that reinforcement is to drop its condescending “nonjudgmentalism.” Married, educated people who work hard and conscientiously raise their kids shouldn’t hesitate to voice their disapproval of those who defy these norms. When it comes to marriage and the work ethic, the new upper class must start preaching what it practices.

    “Preach what you practice” is a nice slogan. I’m not sure I agree with it, though. I lean more toward “preach the Gospel at all times, and when necessary use words.” I think it’s possible to live one’s worldview loudly enough that preaching it is unnecessary and even counterproductive.

    I do agree with Murray that we need to let people know that there is another way. But I think we need to take a Murray-ian (!) approach to this, living out the cold hard facts in our own lives and leaving friends and neighbors to reach the inevitable conclusions.

  2. I think I lean in the same direction you do, Rick. I think the world is mostly deaf to political preaching, except for the type that is directed to the choir.

    I was mostly interested in how I could sharpen my understanding of the direction things are headed through this snapshot of statistics.

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