Monday, July 18, 2005

Monday morning links

Neo-con authors:

Yet, despite the disdain of the literati and his own linguistic
difficulties, Bush presides over an administration chock full of novelists,
particularly among the neo-conservative faction surrounding vice-president Dick
Cheney. Lynne Cheney, the vice-president’s wife, has written three novels, as
well as several children’s books. Before becoming the vice-president’s chief of
staff, Lewis Libby made his literary debut with a historical romance set in
early twentieth-century Japan. And, Richard Perle, who has been a formidable
advocate for an aggressive foreign policy as the erstwhile chairman of the
Pentagon’s Defense Policy Board (DPB), is the author of a Cold War thriller. At
the DPB, Perle shares the table with Newt Gingrich, who also has a thriller to
his credit, an alternative history novel set during World War II. When the Bush
administration sought the Pope’s blessing for the Iraq war, they sent over a
special diplomatic delegation to the Vatican headed by Michael Novak, a prolific
Catholic political philosopher and author of two autobiographical novels about
his religious experiences.

The presence of so many novelists in the corridors of power raises all
sorts of questions. For starters, is there some hidden link between a powerful
imagination and real-world power politics? And, what do these novels tell us
about how political decision-makers really see the world? (Jeet Heer)

As I Lay Reading:

This refusal to look away from pain is both what joins Faulkner and Oprah,
and what most strikingly divides them. In Faulkner the world is gone wrong, and
everything in it is hopelessly broken, whereas Oprah, who is similarly bold in
confronting the cruelties of the past, offers the mild remedy of "inspiration,"
a perpetual procession of heartwarming or heartbreaking personal stories of
overcoming fear. Her show is not likely to shift to a Faulknerian perspective on
the unmasterable past anytime soon. But she has gone beyond the intellectual
limits of the acceptably middlebrow--and of her own show--in openly embracing a
writer who is not only highly experimental in his prose but utterly despairing
in outlook. And that is little short of astonishing. (J. M.

Great First Lines in Novels:

Charlie Harris, professor emeritus of English at Illinois State University,
contemporary literature reader/critic extraordinaire (secretary of the Center for Book and former director of the Unit for Contemporary Literature),
and all-around fine fellow, informs me that a bunch of literary-minded folk are
putting together a list of Great First Lines in Novels, as an arbitrary-but-fun
counterpart to the American Film Institute’s 100 great movie lines. (Michael

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