The Spectacle Blog

Re: Best Novel

By on 5.12.06 | 12:51PM

Having emerged from two days with Navy Expeditionary Combat Command, I guess I'll have to play catch-up on the novels issue.

If we're violating the 25-year rule, there's absolutely no contest: Flashman at the Charge by George MacDonald Fraser (1973) is simply the best novel I've ever read, of any vintage.

Should we return to the original premise, I've got to nominate Christopher Buckley's The White House Mess (1986). I've given so many copies as gifts I regrettably -- very regrettably -- no longer even own a copy.

Another Gov Who Should Run

By on 5.12.06 | 10:39AM

Yesterday, I opined that Jeb Bush has almost a duty to run for the U.S. Senate from Florida. Now comes word from Wisconsin of another, governor, this time former Gov. Tommy Thompson, who still hasn't ruled out a Senate race. (Mention of the Senate race is well down in the article.) Thompson seems to be more strongly considering a comeback for the governor's mansion, but really, he will do his party more good -- and better serve his presidential ambitions by getting some national exposure and some foreign policy/defense policy experience -- by taking on Sen. Herb Kohl in a race no other Wisconsin Republican could win. I've always been a huge fan of Thompson's; he was one of the best governors, of any state, ever. No debate allowed on that: The man successfully pushed vouchers; he provided the model of welfare reform for the whole nation; he cut taxes; and on and on; he did just a great, great job, which is why he kept getting re-elected.

Re: Novels

By on 5.12.06 | 10:30AM

Paul, we could pull Webb into the 25-year window with The Emperor's General, certainly his most philosophical exercise.

Of course, the whole idea of a "best" in novels is ridiculous. So many fabulous novels have simply disappeared: The aforementioned Edwin Mullhouse, Paul Rogers' A Child of the Century, Frederick Boechner's four novels about Leo Bebb, Real Money by Louis P. Jones, The Dolly, Dolly Spy by Adam Diment, any of which I'd gladly read again, right now.

If you ever want a depressing experience, look over the publisher's lists for the upcoming year. Book publishing has always been PC, but it's now totally rotten.

Vin Weber

By on 5.12.06 | 9:15AM

Who'd have thunk that Vin Weber, one of the great stalwarts of the conservative movement, would sell his soul and get into bed with and other left-wing groups to regulate the Internet?

We hear that he's taking upwards of $300,000 each from the likes of Google, Yahoo,, eBay, Microsoft and others -- all of which rarely give a dime, and then only grudingly, to Republicans -- to shill for legislation on the Hill that would regulate the Internet. Not only is he pressing for Internet regulation, but Weber apparently is now supportive of knocking down child-security filters and allowing porn to be transmitted over cell phones and with virtually no parental controls on at-home computers.

The legislation Weber is backing would enable all of that, and yet the Chrisitian Coalition has now apparently joined him in his fight. Just how big a check did Reverend Falwell take from Weber, we wonder?

What’s the Big Deal?

By on 5.12.06 | 8:59AM

Every day when a person uses Google, Yahoo, either company's email system, or associated free software, etc., their privacy is "violated" to a larger degree than what the NSA is doing with phone records.

That's a simple reality. Why aren't people upset about Google, which is now one of the largest corporations in the world? And a company, we might add, that is in full cooperation with the ChiComm overlords in Beijing.

This is how powerful Google's software and algorithms are: if you are using their service at a Wi-Fi hotspot, they can actually monitor your location and send you personalized advertising to steer you to services and businesses within a three block radius.

The NSA isn't doing that. And what the NSA is doing is saving lives, unlike Google, which is just making a buck. Perhaps we should be worried about other things beyond the NSA.

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.