Matt Bucher has a facsimile of a marked-up student paper from one of the undergraduate classes David Foster Wallace taught in the late 1990s. I learned something about both Cormac McCarthy and Frederic Jameson, but by the second or third page, the sight of the man’s handwriting was heartbreaking.
An excerpt from Elif Batuman’s memoir (h/t Language Log): She hated creative writing because it involved craft. This is very strange. She says herself that what she disliked about it is the focus on making something and perfecting it (not just on what’s often referred to as “narrow technique”). I have never heard any literary person (much less a would-be novelist) disparage the relationship between an artist and their work in that way. What are they teaching at Harvard nowadays?
Matthew Yglesias says Fight Club is a critique of a masculinity that’s hypertrophied to such an extent that it becomes mental illness, by way of more or less empathetically depicting people who have in fact veered into such mental illness. Maybe. Interpreting Fight Club as a critique depends on interpreting the (unnamed) Edward Norton character as the moral center of the film; which makes sense, as although the character is kind of a cipher, it is with him that we both begin and end the story. On the other hand, there’s some reason to view the plot in psychohistorical terms, with Brad Pitt’s sociopathic leader Tyler Durden as merely an element of the Norton character’s psyche, in which case Yglesias’s interpretation kind of falls apart. Then the film begins to look like a mostly sympathetic representation of Durden and his plan to (among other things) get everyone’s debts forgiven by blowing up the banks, from the point of view of a man who admires Durden but doesn’t have the guts to decide to follow him, just as Durden himself claims. There’s nothing in the film that explicitly says all this is immoral—only the Norton character’s queasiness, which seems to be the same as the viewer’s.
The New Republic has moved a March 17 article I hadn’t seen, mentioning Bright-Sided, to the top of its online version. The article, tagged “Marcus Aurelius, life coach,” is actually a review of books on Stoicism. I’d recommend Martha C. Nussbaum’s Upheavals of Thought: The Intelligence of Emotions for those who’d like a densely written and long-winded account of the Stoic philosophy.
Today’s New York Times has a graphic illustrating recent wargaming at the Brookings Institution of a possible sneak attack by Israel against Iranian nuclear sites. The write-up is by Kenneth Pollack, whose similar wargaming about Iraq was covered by the Atlantic Monthly a few years ago.
Also in the Times, the Museum of Modern Art announced its acquisition of the @ sign. From now on, presumably, art books wishing to include representations of the symbol will need to obtain permissions. They ought to be free, given that MOMA paid nothing for the right to control them, but can MOMA hold up publication of works they deem to interpret the symbol wrongly?