- The New Yorker profiles Naomi Klein and, in so doing, reveals many of the substantial problems now facing the Left. If the Left is to move forward, it must do so with hope and humility. It is all too easy to preach to the converted and to assume that one’s conclusions are final, particularly when you insist upon steeling yourself up with overwhelming rhetoric. The more challenging and fruitful position is to attempt to understand the apparent “opposition” and communicate through a framework in which lively but civil disagreement can be carried out that benefits all parties. Samantha Power, who is leagues smarter than Klein, understands this vital element of diplomacy. And it’s a pity that Chasing the Flame, Power’s more mature and quite intriguing biography of Sergio Vieria de Mello, has been overlooked for some of the more juvenile “arguments” that pollute The Shock Doctrine. Vieira de Mello was one of the few UN diplomats to get through to the likes of the Khmer Rouge and George W. Bush, and he managed to do this without abandoning his dignity. Power’s volume is not so much the portrait of an individual, as it is a well-researched and subtle guide for how one individual who came from a Marxist upbringing was able to communicate to unsavory individuals and still capable of fulfilling the UN Charter, while powerful governments attempted to bully the UN into complaisance. Let us hope that with Power now returning to the Obama team — ironically, to a State Department that will be overseen by Hillary Clinton — we will see these fundamentals applied to the new administration. Let us also hope that Klein eventually learns how to inhabit the regions outside her own head.
- Colson Whitehead has made a video. While I recognize the base exigencies of marketing, I must nevertheless raise a cautious eyebrow over Whitehead dismissing Holden Caulfield while likewise using the dreaded phrase “child of the ’80s.” (I likewise fit the temporal and existential requirements, but I would never dare deploy these four words on these pages.) I can accept Junot Diaz writing about Grand Theft Auto (and indeed hope for more of this), but I simply cannot accept a writer of Whitehead’s caliber resorting all too easily to this LiveJournal vernacular. I do, however, recognize this as one of those time-honored promotional videos — perhaps something to be enjoyed with Bas Rutten. I have inured myself to these promotional videos, realizing that they almost never represent the novels they are promoting. But like the Rake, I eagerly anticipate this next novel, hoping that Sag Harbor represents a return to form.
- The Best Book Covers of 2008.
- CNN is now pitching a cheaper wire service to newspapers. With the Associated Press planning on cutting 10% of its jobs next year, it would appear that television may very well be taking over the journalism business that has frequently been the domain of newspapers. Related to all this is Roger Ebert’s condemnation of the AP imposing a 500-word limit on reviews, interviews, and news stories, and Bill Wyman’s response on what the future critical landscape looks like. (First link via Books Inq., fourth link via mathitak (Twitter).)
- The Millions hosts its annual Year in Reading, with mostly excellent contributors represented thus far.
- Holt Uncensored has also returned, with a condemnation of the National Book Awards’s needless provincialism and a very good idea that authors should fight for.
- I only link to the ineffable dumbass as a public service. Yes, she’s still out there, ready to be reactivated when Ann Coulter can’t open her mouth. Yes, she’s still contributing drivel to The Atlantic. But then what can you expect from a once thoughtful magazine that desperately includes Britney Spears on its cover to attract readers. (via Maud)
- Does copyright even matter anymore? (via Moby Lives)