↑ Grab this Headline Animator

Sunday, July 05, 2009

Monica Ali, Anti-intellectualism, Sarah Palin, Pleasures of LIght Verse

I spent a year researching In the Kitchen. Most of this time was spent reading a mountain of non-fiction books about the restaurant and hotel trades, and delving firsthand into those worlds. I spent time in five large London hotels, on the understanding that I would not identify them. I talked to everyone from managers to receptionists, but mainly I hung out in the kitchens chatting to staff and absorbing the atmosphere.As one of my characters observes, hotel kitchens resemble UN assemblies: a rich source of diverse stories. They are also places that function under intense pressure, creating an ideal crucible for dramatic confrontation. To a certain extent, the same things could be said of any commercial kitchen, but once I had entered the hotel world I knew no other kitchen would do. The setting provided more scope to bring in a wider range of characters and to examine ideas, tensions and conflicts in a larger part of society. Indeed, I had so much material that for a while it was difficult to know where to begin.
Researching my novel in five different London hotels made me appreciate why they are such a rich source of stories and characters for writers - Monica Ali

When I told friends that I was heading off to a doctoral program in U.S. intellectual history, they either seemed mystified - "Do we have an intellectual history?" - or found the entire proposition somewhat funny : "American intellectual history! ? Isn't that an oxymoron! ?" More skepticism awaited as I began my studies. Classmates repeatedly subjected me to playful, if remorseless, interrogations about the wherefores and whithers of this so-called history of the American mind. I had to wonder what I was doing studying a subject that people think does not exist.

Anti-Intellectualism is a systematic analysis of a cultural malady, but it is also a history of a grievance ; therefore, even at its most restrained, it is a deeply personal document. Hofstadter' s unusually qualified and tentative conclusions signal what his scholarly critics regarded as the book's shortcomings in conception and tone. Many took issue with the elusiveness of conceptualization of "anti-intellectualism," unsatisfied with his apologia that it "does not yield very readily to definition."3 Rush Welter argued that antiintellectualism was at best "a protean concept," and used to articulate nothing like a "national commitment so much as a cluster of expressions and activities that may or may not have held the same meaning for all." Cushing Strout complained that the book documents "[f]eelings" which are "diverse, ambivalent, and no index to social isolation." While documenting these feelings, Hofstadter exposed his own, producing a confessional history of a confession that "skates ... on what he knows to be thin ice."4
Anti-intellectualism as romantic discourse by Ratner-Rosenhagen, Jennifer

It is always sad when a valuable artist perishes. It is sadder still when a valuable art form perishes. It is saddest of all when a valuable art form did not need to perish, but was simply hounded to the culture’s periphery by a deliberate, malicious process of what Fred Reed has called “enstupidation.”

One art form belonging firmly to this last group is light verse. Today it is a drab, tiny creature, which, insofar as the major media tend it at all, survives more in Britain than in the States. Things were very different in the two decades following World War II. Back then, among Americans, light verse flourished. It owed part of its exuberant health to the enlightened attitude of New Yorker editor Harold Ross, who had an admirable policy of paying substantially more for light-verse contributions than for conventional free-verse bromides. But The New Yorker was not light verse’s only home. The New York Herald Tribune, Life, and the Saturday Evening Post all found abundant room for it. As critic William H. Pritchard observed, “Books by [light verse’s] practitioners were reviewed in The New York Times Book Review, the general sense being that, in the age of [T.S.] Eliot and Wallace Stevens, it was an excellent alternative to high modernism.” The practitioners themselves won Pulitzers and honorary doctorates. They could even earn a middle-class living by producing the stuff.
Sweetness & Spite - The forgotten pleasures of light verse By R.J. Stove

Politics - It Came from Wasilla By Todd S. Purdum
Despite her disastrous performance in the 2008 election, Sarah Palin is still the sexiest brand in Republican politics, with a lucrative book contract for her story. But what Alaska’s charismatic governor wants the public to know about herself doesn’t always jibe with reality. As John McCain’s top campaign officials talk more candidly than ever before about the meltdown of his vice-presidential pick, the author tracks the signs—political and personal—that Palin was big trouble, and checks the forecast for her future.
By Todd S. Purdum August 2009


Post a Comment

<< Home