#fridayreads

This year, for the first time ever, I am flying on Thanksgiving Day. Given that I’ll be working late into the evening Wednesday night, closing down the office, dotting and crossing the requisite letters, etc. and that I love saving money, flying on the holiday morning makes perfect sense. There is, however, the creeping dread: flying that day leaves no wiggle room. What if there’s a spontaneous snowstorm that closes down the entire East Coast? What if I eat my turkey leg at the Legal Seafood at Logan International—except since that this is a crazy situation stranding me at a “high”-class seafood restaurant in a busy airport, I’d be eating some low-class marlin or something—and never even get to smell homemade stuffing or fill my mouth with entirely too many mashed potatoes?

What if Boston’s notoriously unreliable and lousy, filthy, rotten public transit services decide to shut down en masse—it is a holiday, after all—leaving me with a more unreliable, lousier, filthier, rottener option: taxis. Taxis in Boston are nothing like taxis in Chicago (and New York, as some have informed me); that is to say, they are crazy expensive and almost impossible to find. Given that I live in Somerville, taxis are sparser here than the city. And Cambridge—our more erudite and irrevocably haughty neighbor city—taxis can’t even drop off in Somerville; mind you: the border between Somerville and Cambridge is arbitrary and stupid (so much so the cab drivers don’t even know what’s what).

At this point, I’m just going to assume I’ll be taking a raft from the Aquarium to the airport. It’ll probably be quicker, anyhow.

It’s best I not think about how everything could go wrong. But I’m not that kind of guy. I’ll be monitoring the weather for next Thursday every seventeen minutes until I go to bed Wednesday night.

So what are you reading this weekend? 

Forrest Wickman’s “How Many Presidents Have Been Accused of Being the Antichrist?” (Slate)
Man, Slate barely does anything right these days. Maybe I’m just growing out of it, but their LOOK AT HOW COUNTERINTUITIVE WE’RE BEING shtick has become a little tiresome. (I’ll just go ahead and cite The XX Factor’s assertion that Representative Bachmann’s being treated by the media as a complete and total nutjob is somehow indicative of a “soft bigotry” in campaign coverage as the small-sample-size headscratcher.) The whole magazine is basically that kid you can’t escape at a party who keeps on telling you that The Slickee Boys and The Faith were much better DC bands than Fugazi. Being unconventional or holding an unpopular opinion doesn’t somehow make you more interesting or compelling—sometimes wrong is wrong.

(I’m about to talk about sports, so if you’re not into that whole thing I’d recommend watching this minute-long YouTube video of a dog trying to get up with your time and skip to the next paragraph when the video ends.)

And their sports coverage; COME ON. Why do I want to listen to three guys—Mike Pesca, Josh Levin, and Stefan Fatsis—do a podcast on sports when they very clearly resent about 96% of America’s sporting culture? This is a new breed of young-slash-smart sportswriter or -commentator: folks who like sports, but want you to know that they understand how silly it all is, how it’s just a bunch of men—some scantily clad—sweating all over each other over some trivial game that in the end doesn’t matter. (I’m moving away from Pesca, Levin, and Fatsis here, given that I don’t actually dislike the first two, and really like Fatsis—they just get on my nerves.) But, of course, they—these young, smart guys who just get it—are the only ones who know that it doesn’t matter, and they know this more than the players who are playing, who are sweating and bleeding and sometimes dying, and the guys who just get it also think the players are horrendously overpaid, of course they are usually aghast at the mega-salaries while at the same time understanding that professional sports are (together) a hugely profitable industry and that the players (who are usually non-whites) get to make millions is actually a good thing—and in the case of the current NBA lockout, they should probably make more—as the players are driving the profits reaped by their owners (who are usually white), this tenuous balance making these guys a little squeamish, because even though the games don’t matter and it’s all a bunch of silly ass-grabbing, it’s undeniable that there are some serious class and race issues at hand, not to mention economic: these guys who just get it can on the one hand be virulent socialists for this market, supporting revenue distribution and salary caps, while also pushing messy free markets like Major League Baseball’s weird and unhealthy adventures in Central America, this being a clever sort of playing-of-both-sides trick that allows these guys who just get it to be right no matter what, as they’ve got a way out of any argument: at the end of the day, it doesn’t matter. These people can enjoy the game for all the same reasons I or any other actual sportsfan can while also patting themselves on the back for not enjoying it as much, or enjoying it in a slightly different way.

It’s breathtaking, really. Sorry about that.

Slate is, collectively, at its best when it’s doing some light (current front page story on lab rats) or transparently WASPy reporting (front-page article that asks “Was Postmodern Architecture Any Good?”).

So I was delighted when I saw this segment from their “Explainer” series (which is usually solid and dependable). Doing some light research, Wickman finds examples of FDR, Kennedy, Reagan, and in the non-presidents category, Pope John Paul II (DBC’s favorite pope, to be sure). Aside from the tasty little historical morsels in there, it’s fun to read about humanity’s collective obsession with the notion of an antichrist. This proves something: religion, though it is meaningful to so many, is at the end of the day—and I’m really not going out of my way to marginalize or minimize its impact, just looking at it through a different prism (that’s right Maud Newton, I’m not taking a stand—call the blog police after you finish your devastating piece on George Saunders’ conversational writing style leading conversers to converse in a conversational tongue)—a superhero story, where Jesus is a kickass, benevolent dude who saves people from the anti-him.

And I’m not even into comic books. Maybe you can chime in, Marnie?

Also, in DBC news: this might be a quiet few weeks for us review-wise, given the industry calendar and, well, the calendar in general—Thanksgiving–>my birthday–>Christmas–>New Year’s. But we’ll have a lot in January! We’re reviewing a ton of titles that month. Some of them include Ayad Akhtar’s American Dervish, Leigh Stein’s The Fallback Plan, Ben Marcus’ The Flame Alphabet, and Eli Gottlieb’s The Face Thief. So look for those!

In the coming weeks, we’ll also review David Foster Wallace’s posthumous novel The Pale King and Erin Morgenstern’s book-clubbed-to-high-heaven novel The Night Circus

Have a good weekend! And hey, if you see Jeffrey Eugenides, can you please just ask him to admit Leonard is David Foster Wallace?

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