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June 18, 2011

Christopher Hitchens on David Mamet's right-wing crazypants conversion

Book Review - The Secret Knowledge - By David Mamet - NYTimes.com
This is an extraordinarily irritating book, written by one of those people who smugly believe that, having lost their faith, they must ipso facto have found their reason. In order to be persuaded by it, you would have to be open to propositions like this: “Part of the left’s savage animus against Sarah Palin is attributable to her status not as a woman, neither as a Conservative, but as a Worker.” Or this: “America is a Christian country. Its Constitution is the distillation of the wisdom and experience of Christian men, in a tradition whose codification is the Bible.” Some of David Mamet’s unqualified declarations are made even more tersely. On one page affirmative action is described as being “as injust as chattel slavery”; on another as being comparable to the Japanese internment and the Dred Scott decision. We learn that 1973 was the year the United States “won” the Vietnam War, and that Karl Marx — who on the evidence was somewhat more industrious than Sarah Palin — “never worked a day in his life.” Slackness or confusion might explain his reference to the �Scottish-Canadian newspaper magnate Lord Beaverbrook as a Jewish courtier in the tradition of Disraeli and Kissinger, but it is more than ignorant to say of Bertrand Russell — author of one of the first reports from Moscow to analyze and excoriate Lenin — that he was a fellow-traveling dupe and tourist of the Jane Fonda style. Propagandistic writing of this kind can be even more boring than it is irritating. For example, Mamet writes in “The Secret Knowledge” that “the Israelis would like to live in peace within their borders; the Arabs would like to kill them all.” Whatever one’s opinion of that conflict may be, this (twice-made) claim of his abolishes any need to analyze or even discuss it. It has a long way to go before it can even be called simplistic. By now, perhaps, you will not be surprised to know that Mamet regards global warming as a false alarm, and demands to be told “by what magical process” bumper stickers can “save whales, and free Tibet.” This again is not uncharacteristic of his pointlessly aggressive style: who on earth maintains that they can? If I were as prone to sloganizing as Mamet, I’d keep clear of bumper-sticker comparisons altogether. . . .

June 17, 2011

This is a newly translated interview David Foster Wallace gave in 2006 to a Russian journalist

‘A Frightening Time in America’: An Interview with David Foster Wallace by Ostap Karmodi | NYRblog | The New York Review of Books
Ostap Karmodi: Do you feel we’re living in an age of consumerism or is that just a media concept that doesn’t have any real meaning? David Foster Wallace: This question, as you know, is very complicated. I can give answers that are somewhat simple and I can really talk only about America, because it’s really the only society that I know. America, as everybody knows, is a country of many contradictions, and a big contradiction for a long time has been between a very aggressive form of capitalism and consumerism against what might be called a kind of moral or civic impulse. For many years everybody knew that business was business and people needed to make money, but people were also a little embarrassed or ashamed of that. It was regarded as somewhat crass. Some of this contradiction comes out of England and old conflicts between the bourgeoisie and nobility. Sometime—I’m not sure whether it was the 1990s or 1980s in America—half of that conflict really sort of disappeared, and there’s now a celebration of commercialism and consumerism and marketing that is not really balanced by any kind of shame or embarrassment or reticence or sense that in fact consumerism and commercialism were really only a very small part of human life. I think that many peoples’ daily lives probably aren’t completely consumer-driven here in America, but they’re certainly much more so than they were twenty or thirty years ago. OK: Do you think it’s a natural trend that will stop by itself at some point? DFW: Where’s it’s going, I’m not entirely sure. In America, and I imagine in large parts of Western Europe, there’s a certain problem which is that corporations have gotten more and more power, both culturally and politically. Here in America it now takes large amounts of money to run for various kinds of democratic office. Corporations have a great deal more money than private citizens, corporations make these donations that then result in laws that favor corporations even more, and you get a sort of cycle. And corporations are very strange, they’re composed of people, they have the legal status of a person, but they don’t have a conscience or soul the way people do. You end up with this increasing distortion of American values where everything becomes about money and selling and buying and display. We’ve reached a point with the current president and the current administration where corporations have so much influence and so much control and are doing so much damage that’s obvious to everybody that there may be a backlash, a kind of spasmodic reaction against it. The next ten years here in America are going to be very interesting probably for the whole world to watch. . . .
*Thanks, Mo!*