“Novels are machines for falsely generating belief”… essay on fiction, by Zadie Smith in The New York Review of Books

Great essay on writing (and reading) fiction by Zadie Smith.

Do I contradict myself?
Very well then I contradict myself,
(I am large, I contain multitudes.)

I’m sure I’m not the first novelist to dig up that old Whitman chestnut in defense of our indefensible art. And it would be easy enough at this point to march onward and write a triumphalist defense of fiction, ridiculing those who hold the very practice in suspicion—the type of reader who wonders how a man wrote Anna Karenina, or why Zora Neale Hurston once wrote a book with no black people in it, or why a gay woman like Patricia Highsmith spent so much time imagining herself into the life of an (ostensibly) straight white man called Ripley. But I don’t write fiction in a triumphalist spirit and I can’t defend it in that way either. Besides which, a counter-voice in my head detects, in Whitman’s lines, not a little entitlement. Containing multitudes sounds, just now, like an act of colonization. Who is this Whitman, and who does he think he is, containing anyone? Let Whitman speak for Whitman—I’ll speak for myself, thank you very much. How can Whitman—white, gay, American—possibly contain, say, a black polysexual British girl or a nonbinary Palestinian or a Republican Baptist from Atlanta?

Source: Fascinated to Presume: In Defense of Fiction | by Zadie Smith | The New York Review of Books

HT: Bill Sundstrom

Posted in Reading

The Big Sleep, by Raymond Chandler

3687My neighborhood book group read this and we had a fun discussion. This is a great novel. Sure some parts are no longer politically correct, but you have to read past that. Chandler’s writing is so literary: crafted, thoughtful, evocative. Practically every page the modern reader is impressed by his sentences, vocabulary, metaphors, and style. And the plot is convoluted enough that you are impelled to go back to certain sections and read them again, and get a wonderful feeling of satisfaction as you see pieces link together. And it’s LA….

Posted in Book and film reviews

Fiasco, by Thomas Ricks

indexFrom 2006. Not the best-written book. Lots of vignettes, often little narrative flow. He drops characters that he should be coming back to: Cheney is never mentioned after page 100 for example. I don’t think any Iraqi leaders other than Chalabi and Moqtada al-Sadr are mentioned, and even then only tangentially. But if you want to be convinced that the whole invasion and occupation was a fiasco, and the Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, and Wolfowitz were responsible, this is a great introduction and heard to beat. I was convinced. Usually I am pretty skeptical. I remember my parents had The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich by Shirer (they kept it out of sight, in the garage… imagine!), and that kind of a book about the Iraq invasion would be worth reading.

Posted in Book and film reviews

Adam and Allison Grant rewrite children’s books and much fiction: “Noble deed doers, you should first lecture the victims and help them help themselves more otherwise you are an enabler…”

OK I’m making fun a little, but their essay on The Giving Tree just rubs me the wrong way. Instead of marveling at the moral ambiguity of the book, the impulse is to “fix” it by explaining to you child what the right “lesson” is. Assume your child will take away the “wrong” lesson, too.

But my book club just finished reading and discussing The Big Sleep, and I guess I do not think the novel would have been very good if Marlowe had taken a few days off after telling Vivian, “Eddie Mars and his crew play too rough: I think I’m risking too much of my self for values I am not sure I can articulate, I need some me time and I’ll get back to you later…”

Posted in Burkina Faso

Great article in The New York Times about rural America and public services

I watched the fight unfold with a sense of sadness, anger and frustration. I started arguing. It didn’t work. The pay request was pulled from the Quorum Court’s agenda.I didn’t realize it at first, but the fight over the library was rolled up into a bigger one about the library building, and an even bigger fight than that, about the county government, what it should pay for, and how and whether people should be taxed at all. The library fight was, itself, a fight over the future of rural America, what it meant to choose to live in a county like mine, what my neighbors were willing to do for one another, what they were willing to sacrifice to foster a sense of community here.The answer was, for the most part, not very much.

Posted in Burkina Faso

Trivia from movie version of The Big Sleep

bsconladyFrom a great blog post on the film The Big Sleep: http://www.waynesthisandthat.com/bigsleep.htm

Agnes Lowzier, the saleslady at Geiger’s bookstore and Joe Brody’s accomplice, played by Sonia Darrin. Although her face is very familiar it’s difficult to find information on her. She’s appeared in only seven films, all but one of which were uncredited. It’s odd she was uncredited in The Big Sleep because she had as much screen time and dialog as Carmen.

Mystery Solved!

In 2016 Ms. Alice Griffin very kindly contacted me to provide a link to an article with an interview with Sonia Darrin explaining why she didn’t receive screen credits. After filming but before the first release, Ms. Darrin’s agent got into a violent argument with studio head Jack Warner. As a consequence, Mr. Warner declared he would never hire anyone connected with the agent and had Ms. Darrin’s name stricken from the screen credits. He might have gone as far as cutting her from the movie altogether, but her scenes were too important to do so. Ms. Darrin’s career never took off after that and she moved to New York, where she was successful as a top model. I’d like to express my profound appreciation to Alice Griffin for resolving this mystery. (Thanks, Alice!)

Posted in Book and film reviews

UEMOA : La masse salariale du Burkina a dépassé la norme – NetAfrique.net

Burkina on a public employee spending spress?

Selon la commission chargée des politiques économiques et de la fiscalité intérieure de l’Uemoa, la masse salariale du Burkina présente un taux de 48%, dépassant ainsi la norme Uemoa qui est de 35 %. L’annonce a été faite lundi à Ouagadougou au cours d’une conférence de presse de cette commission qui a présenté le rapport de la surveillance multilatérale de l’espace Uemoa.« Les Etats ont beaucoup de charges, et donc si dans un Etat on consacre l’ensemble des ressources pour la rémunération des salaires, il n’y aura plus assez de ressources pour les investissements et donc l’idéal est de ne pas dépasser 35%. », a indiqué Félicien Arigdo directeur de la surveillance macro-économique de l’UEMOA.

Source: UEMOA : La masse salariale du Burkina a dépassé la norme – NetAfrique.net

Posted in Economy