Rummaging the Close-at-Hand
With this little gem on the story behind Annie Dillard's 1975 Pulitzer-winning classic, Pilgrim at Tinker's Creek, the British paper, The Guardian, once again shows why its inspired, wide-angled coverage of books is almost without peer. "Dillard is not, like many nature writers, an epiphany-hound," the writer nicely notes. And this marvelous paper has a similar ethos: it cites no trumped-up news "hook" or other synthetic "angle" to tell a good story. It leaves all that to its many hack competitors. And that keeps me, and lots of other satisfied book-lovers, coming back again and again.
And while you're at it, check out a couple of brilliant essays on important political topics, both published in April. Marc Cooper, a fine West Coast- based political writer, skewers lefty "detachment and denial" in a book review in The Atlantic (it's available on the magazine's site only for subscribers, but you'll find the entire piece here). While I don't agree with all of his take, he does make quite a case that liberals should stop whining and start listening to some folks outside of their own self-perpetuating echo chambers:
Groups like MoveOn are fundamentally echo chambers for Volvo Democrats whose lives aren't much affected by whether a Democrat or a Republican is in the White House, and who think it's a politically significant act to go with an audience of like-minded souls to view a flockumentary like Fahrenheit 9/11 or Outfoxed, to set their TiVo to Jon Stewart's The Daily Show, or to pass around lefty spam containing fiery warnings of creeping fascism. A far more challenging exercise after the election would have been for MoveOn to order its troops to meet with and listen to ten people who disagreed with them -- instead of talking, as usual, only to one another.
And in the April Harper's Mag (not online, unfortunately, so get thee to a library), Michael Hudson nicely dissects the Bush team's Social Security scam. The headline tells much of the story: "The $4.7-Trillion Pyramid--Why Social Security Won't Be Enough to Save Wall Street." The author, an econ professor at the University of Missouri, argues that "what Bush seeks to manufacture is a boom--or, more accurately, a bubble--bankrooled by the last safe pile of cash in America today. His plan is a Ponzi scheme, and in that scheme it is Social Security that is being played for the last sucker." The good news: it looks as though GWB's falling poll numbers are pretty well ending Karl Rove's grand scheme to gut this centerpiece of FDRs' legacy. The bad news: that means we'll less frequently be able to enjoy hearing the manic cable-news yakker Chris Matthews say "Sosh Security."
And speaking of Chris Matthews, he's scheduled to serve as Case's commencement speaker this spring. But I think John Carroll's commencement speaker is a far better choice: Jim Wallis, the longtime editor of the splendid faith-based magazine Sojourners. His new