Tuesday, October 17, 2006

An Open Letter to Chris Kelly, in Regards to His Blog Entry Entitled "My Book Is Bigger Than Yours"

A note to my readers: you may find a link to Mr. Kelly's blog just to the left of this entry.


Dear Mr. Kelly,

I briefly considered leaving a mere comment to your last entry, but quickly realized that I would be doing the American public an injustice by leaving my response in a form and forum where it would be unlikely to be reviewed and enjoyed. Clearly, this is a reply that must be shared and quoted among the more fashionable intellectual circles.

First of all, I enjoyed your entry. I found it an amusing distraction to the current burden I suffer, that being the burden of conscience in light of today's disturbing current events. Why am I merely working at a production company when I should instead be serving society by holding down a public office and singlehandedly saving the entire world from itself by my singular intellect and insight into the human condition? Well, these are questions for another time, but again - thank you for your irreverent, charming piece.

Now as to your speculation of what I last read, no, it was not one of Wodehouse's world-reknown Jeeves and Wooster books. This would have been a good guess, however. I do very often enjoy turning to Mr. Wodehouse's works. I would not expect just anyone to appreciate Mr. Wodehouse's sparkling wit. As Mr. Charles McGrath, an editor of The New Yorker, put it in his article on Wodehouse in The New York Times, "I suspect that a taste for it is something that one usually acquires when young, or not at all." I, of course, did not get into Wodehouse until just after college, when my ex-boyfriend, one Mr. David Morris, a graduate of Berkeley with a degree in cognitive science, lent a Wodehouse book to me. Thankfully, my own sensibilities were able to tune themselves into Mr. Wodehouse's and I've been a fan ever since.

As to your statement that you find my reading of him "adorable," I can see how one would perceive the writings of a valet and his employer as merely amusing. However, as Mr. McGrath states, "[T]here is more to him than the funny names and Edwardian settings and delirious plots. Wodehouse was a prose stylist of real genius, with a technical mastery of the sentence that is the equal of Saki's or Beerbohm's." Clearly, a man of such talents might pass under radar of one who is not able to recognize the subtle mastery of the English language. Your assessment that Mr. Wodehouse's books are "silly" are entirely understandable, Mr. Kelly.

However, on to the question of what I was, in fact, reading last. It was the presidential biography Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln by Mrs. Doris Kearns Goodwin, winner of the Pulitzer Prize for her book No Ordinary Time: Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt: The Home Front in World War II. It is a work on how Lincoln's mastery of men and politics shaped the most significant presidency in American history. I found the account deeply moving and politically stirring. In fact, I wept when Mr. Lincoln finally passed from life and into the great unknown. I tried not to dwell on my sadness at the early loss of such a great intelligence. Instead, I have endeavored to think more as his Secretary of War, Mr. Edwin Stanton thought, for, as he said, "Now he belongs to the ages."

While a book on Mr. Lincoln may not be quite the monolith that Ms. Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged is, I think the subject matter does somewhat lend itself to being of a greater significance. I think it positively delightful that Ms. Rand sought to define a new philosophy in this age of capitalism. I think it's very quaint that she has an institute dedicated to furthering her ideas. Indeed, I hear that since the inception of an essay contest for high school students, there have been 150,000 participants. I don't think it quite reaches Mr. Lincoln's acts on behalf of the human race, but really, how many people can say they freed an entire race from bondage? Not many. So really, 150,000 high school kids receiving some money for college could be considered sort of like the modern version of granting 4 million people their freedom. I mean, I, personally, don't see how it could be considered as such, but perhaps someone else could.

As to what I am reading now, I have chosen Arundhati Roy's critically acclaimed novel The God of Small Things, which Michiko Kakutani of The New York Times stated is, "[A] novel that turns out to be as subtle as it is powerful, a novel that is Faulknerian in its ambitious tackling of family and race and class, Dickensian in its sharp-eyed observation of society and character." I have read it before, of course, on my flight back to the States after having spent the last month in Barcelona. I am re-reading it, however, in preparation for Ms. Roy's documentary "We," which is a documentary that covers the world politics of power, war, corporations, deception and exploitation. I'll be receiving it in the mail as a thanks from KPFK 90.7 for pledging my support. I will also be receiving a DVD of her talks with the internationally loved author Eduardo Galeano, entitled Conversations With Galeano and Roy It is a collection of readings and conversation held at Times Square in New York City. Roy and Galeano read from their writing, including unpublished work, and then exchanged thoughts on imperialism, neoliberalism, art, and resistance. I expect to find it fascinating, but I really couldn't say whether you would like it or not. Perhaps you're too busy to observe and reflect upon an open discourse between two minds because you have, I don't know, a Libertarian meeting to attend.

To conclude, I do hope I have thoroughly answered your pondering of what I last read. I hope you enjoy the remainder of Ms. Rand's brochure on Objectivism.

Miss Lindsay Katai


Chris Kelly said...

enjoy all 336 pages of The God of Small Things.


Philip said...

I'd like to have an open and frank discussion about President Lincoln.

I'll start off by listing two events that occured in his life. For effect, I'll list them in chronological order.

- Event 1 -
Abraham's father, Thomas Lincoln -- a man who couldn't, in the words of the 16th president, do "more in the way of writing than to bunglingly sign his own name" -- abandoned young Abe and his sister Sarah for several weeks, leaving them to fend for themselves in a shack in middle the Kentucky woods while he attempted to find himself a wife. Here in the harsh, unforgiving woods, the poorly educated Lincoln children lived amongst the animals where, as Lincoln is quoted as saying, "the bears preyed on the swine and the panther's roar filled the night with terror."

- Event 2 -
At age 53, not even two full years into his first term as president, Abraham Lincoln freed every single Confederate-owned slave; and he did so in the most politically strategic, publicly acceptible, nation-defining manner possible.

Got that? Chronologically, it's 1.) Poor, pathetic, left in the woods. 2.) Freed all the slaves.

Lincoln is better than you. I don't care who you are. He's better.

And now I'll just list off a few things I like about the man:

1.) He was a master storyteller and jokesmith. On the prarie law circuit, Lincoln hopped from town to town. The locals all flocked around him to bear witness to his incredible storytelling. My favorite story of his is the one about the American diplomat visiting England at the turn of the 19th century. This diplomat found his lodging in an hotel that was, quite obviously, filled to the brim with Englishmen. Now at the time, the English were still smarting from their defeat in our Revolution, and a couple of these Brits thought it'd be very funny to hang a portrait of President Washington by the toilet in the bathroom. They giggled as the American diplomat entered the bathroom and then burst into laughter when they saw him exit, supposedly offended by their placement of the portrait. To their utter surprise, the American diplomat rejoined, "I find your placement of that portrait to be quite fitting -- for nothing makes an Englishman shit quicker than the sight of General Washington!"

2.) He was mighty. During the Civil War, he had boarded a naval vessel and, in the middle of joking with and cajoling the seamen, Lincoln asked for an axe. He outstretched his arm and held the axe straight out with the very tips of his fingers for lengthy period of time. He then asked if any of the seamen could hold the axe out as long as he had. Not a single one of them could.

3.) He consistently and thoroughly put those uppity Chases in their place. He endured just the right amount of Salmon's incessant social backstabbing, while gently placating the ever-sensitive Chase ego all so that he could ensure that the nation got the kind of treasury management it required. And when push came to shove, he knew exactly when to call Chase out on his bullshit resignation bluffs. Furthermore, though he masterfully outmaneuvered Salmon at every step of the way, blocking every feeble attempt on Salmon's part to attain the presidency, Lincoln proved the depth and breadth of his good-hearted nature when he nominated Chase to be Chief Justice of the Motherfucking Supreme Goddamned Court in 1864.

4.) Lincoln's first words to Mary Todd: "I'd like to dance with you in the worst way." Fact.

I think someone could make a funny list about Lincoln's many great features and accomplishments, just like those Chuck Norris lists that were circulating months and months ago. But here's the thing about the Lincoln list: they'd all be true.

Lincoln > anyone


Lindsay Evelyn said...

I kind of want to appropriate that WWJD for Lincoln. I want to walk around wearing a shirt with his silhouette on it saying "What Would Lincoln Do?"

I also desperately, DESPERATELY want to begin a campaign to educate people on the fact that the Republican party of Lincoln and FDR's day is not the same Republican party we have today. I'm so angry that Republicans are proclaiming themselves the "party of Lincoln" as an attempt to get the minority vote that I could vomit all over myself and then die.

There. That comment had just the right amount of eloquence and class.

Kerry said...

I'm reading "Everybody Poops".

Kerslzp Music said...

FDR was a Democrat. The Republicans before his presidency were so laissez faire about the economy that they allowed the Great Depression to happen. Until ole Skinny Legs McRoosevelt popped up with his New Deal, the Democrats had no footing. And the nation loved that crippled Washington playboy so much that they elected him to office an unprecedented four times.

At any rate, yr right. It's not the same party as it was when Lincoln was president. The Republicans were nothing more than "The Party of Lincoln" until after the Spanish-American War when suddenly there were a whole slew of imperial interests and no actual policies. And Lincoln was only marginally Christian. This whole Fundamentalist Christian vein wasn't even part of the mix until Clinton became president and the Republicans needed to figure out how to ally themselves with John Q. American. They found that they could do that via Jesus. And sister, lemme tell you, if there's anything that Jesus is good for, it's getting enough people to agree to bomb the fucking hell out Iraq. If only Lincoln had figured that out 140 years ago, we wouldn't be in the mess we are today.

Lindsay Evelyn said...

Ah, my bad. Momentary mix-up with Teddy and FDR.

Mike D. said...

I absolutely LOVE all things associated with Lincoln. A couple of weeks ago, I went to watch D.W. Griffith's 1930 film "Abraham Lincoln" at the Museum of Modern Art starring Walter Huston. It seems as if Lincoln never got over the death of his first love Ann Rutledge, which may have been a large part of his depression during his presidency. Many historians think this is exaggerated though. I'm making a friend dress up as Lincoln for Halloween since he is 6'4'' and has a beard. I'm having someone else dress up as John Wilkes Booth and I may be Tad Lincoln or the drunken smoking version of Ulysses S. Grant. After a few drinks, perhaps we'll participate in a disturbing, twisted episode along the lines of "The House of Yes." (Which I remembered starred a promising actress named Lindsay Katai awhile back)