The Spectacle Blog

Re: Best Novel

By on 5.12.06 | 7:21AM

In the 1970s, the NYTBR, much less political than nowadays, featured, week after week, wonderful novels in their lead review. I read them all (it seems, now); I had a membership in the Mechanics Institute Library of San Francisco, which bought everything. Of that bunch, I best remember "Edwin Mullhouse: The Life and Death of an American Writer, 1943-1954," by Stephen Millhauser.

But wait, that was 30 years ago, not 25. In the years afterward, when I was in the lit game, the common wisdom was that the novel was dead. I came around to Stephen King's view, expressed at the American Book Awards, that the real flame keepers of novel writing are now, and have been for some years, the popular novelists -- not the pretend litterateurs like Toni Morrison, but the real entertainers like King, Clancy, Turow, and such.

So I'll nominate The Shining.

Best Novel of the Last 25 Years?

By on 5.12.06 | 4:26AM

The New York Times asked a pretty distinguished panel that question, and the answer seems identical to what might be returned by Oprah’s Book Club: Toni Morrison’s Beloved. The rest of the list suggests a somewhat rigged game, with Philip Roth placing no less than six novels in the honorable mentions. A feature on the poll results is promised for Sunday’s book review.

I haven’t read enough contemporary fiction to be a worthy judge of such things – too much Thomas Pynchon in younger days soured me, I guess. However, I have read Toni Morrison, and I do know that Beloved is not the best novel of this or any other quarter century.

Golf Notes

By on 5.12.06 | 4:06AM

Quin, this may be of interest only to you and me. Darren Clarke was called home from a tournament last week to be at his wife Heather's side as she battles cancer via chemotherapy. He's playing this week in The British Masters at The Belfry, not far from his London home, so he can drive back and forth.

Aside from his golf, Clarke is noteworthy for his kicky spiked frosted hairdos, his go-to-hell trousers, and a ruddy, life-affirming face that obviously enjoys the good things -- cigars, fast cars, Guinness.

His appearance, via the Golf Channel, is a shock. His hair is an untended mess, his clothes look slept-in, and his face is ashen and drawn. Things must not be going well in the Clarke household. Astonishingly, he's leading the golf tournament.

Better Late …

By on 5.11.06 | 4:58PM

Perhaps someone at AmSpec can pull it up, but the Washington Post this morning "breaks" news that we reported on weeks ago: that the DNC, its leader, Howard Dean and the House and Senate Democrats are in a big cat fight over money and strategy.

Why the MSM insists on portraying the troubles of Republicans over the troubles of Democrats is clear cut. But conservatives should be clear: while the GOP infighting is largely over policy, the Democrat fighting is over turf, cash, and a general ineptitude that will not be helpful to them in the fall.

Re: USA Today Adopts Yale’s Taliban

By on 5.11.06 | 4:50PM

To be fair to wishy-washy USA Today, the paper also gave space today to Clinton W. Taylor, a frequent contributor to this site and probably the world's leading authority on Yale's Taliban fetish, whose op-ed "Get Hashemi Out of Yale" appears as an opposing view to the pro-Hashemi editorial. Of course, Clint was given only about the space enjoyed by the editorial itself, but isn't that the way the world always works -- a principled conservative view always finding itself badly outnumbered yet somehow triumphant nonetheless?

Hayden Coda

By on 5.11.06 | 4:15PM

We're hearing from multiple sources that the CIA, General Michael Hayden and White House legislative affairs are pulling back on meetings with Senators up on Capitol Hill. Hayden is said by two sources to be calling Senators asking to delay meeting. Hayden has friendly relationships with a number of Senators who serve on the Senate Intelligence Committee.

This news throws into question whether Hayden will ever get a hearing on a nomination that many consider now dead on arrival up in the Senate. This is in part due to the NSA story today, in part due to more White House ineptitude.

Jeb Should Run

By on 5.11.06 | 3:19PM

Okay, why isn't anybody saying the obvious, which is that Jeb Bush's failure to recruit anybody to run for U.S. Senate from Florida -- even though he has trashed the chances of Rep. Katherine Harris for the same seat -- is a tremendous black eye for Jeb and for President Bush. One would think that with all the power of the presidency and the governorship, Florida Republicans should be able to field a formidable candidate. That they haven't done so is a travesty, and quite simply a failure to fulfill a political responsibility. Right now the only other potential candidate seems to be Rep. Mark Foley, who was going to run several years ago before his father got ill. Jeb should find a way to get Foley to run...or to get Gen. Tommy Franks to run... or to talk Jack Nicklaus into running. ..... Wait a minute; forget all that: Why is there NO clamor for Jeb himself to run? He failed to find an alternative, so why is there no pressure on him to fill the gap? With leadership comes responsibility. Jeb clearly has a chance to win the race; indeed, would probably be considered at least a slight favorite from the minute he enters.

Huckabee’s Knuckleheaded Move

By on 5.11.06 | 2:25PM

Every so often I see Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee listed as a possible GOP presidential contender for 2008, and I don't know whether to chuckle or to scream out a warning. I worked at the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette for 14 months; when I first went there, I thought Huckabee was a white knight. Just 14 months later, I had concluded he was pretty much a, well, not a jack-rabbit, put it that way. He is incredibly thin-skinned; he has a blind eye for ethical problems because, you see, he's a Baptist minister, and that makes it outrageous even to question his ethics OR even the ethics of those who work for him. Or at least that's his attitude. Of course, what that meant was a whole series of stupid, almost petty, ethics-related imbroglios while I was there, and at one point the governor actually threatened to sue the state's very highly regarded Ethics Commission. It led me, on a TV appearance, to question just how dumb Huck must be: "Imagine the headlines," I said: "Governor versus Ethics, in big bold letters."

What brings these reflections on is the following story, forwarded to me via e-mail:

Which Is It, Harry?

By on 5.11.06 | 1:08PM

Harry Reid is awfully confused why the $100 gas rebate failed. From a Democratic Party fundraising email today:

As gas prices rose to above $3 a gallon last week, President Bush, his Administration officials, and their Senate allies came out in full force to do damage control. They know their jobs and their far-right agenda are at stake this November. In a hasty attempt to appease voters, Senator Frist proposed a $100 rebate financed by changing an accounting loophole that allows the oil and gas industry to pay lower taxes. His own party members balked at the overt pandering to voters, with Senator Conrad of Montana saying, "there're some dumb ideas in this." [Houston Chronicle, 4/29/06] But it was heavy pressure from Big Oil that ultimately drove Senator Frist to retreat from the plan.

It is well established that constituents revolted against the insulting pandering -- Reid had it right the first time. But that doesn't fit his party's narrative (which depends on pandering). All the facts aside, Big Oil did it. Right.

Lewis Now Under the Scope

By on 5.11.06 | 1:04PM

U.S. Attorneys are now investigating House Appropriations Committee Chairman Rep. Jerry Lewis (R-Calif.).

Of course, liberals seize on it. They seem to live in some fantasy world where the problem is the party at the wheel, and not the fact that an incredibly large government is a corrupting one.

I will presume Lewis innocent until proven guilty. But it is worth noting that this is the same Jerry Lewis who last month tried to scuttle budget reforms and helped load up the emergency appropriations bill. These guys operate on appropriations, not principle. So color me unsurprised when any of them abuses his office and runs afoul of the law.