Sunday Bloody NYT Sunday: Special Little Tommy Friedman Book Report Literary Edition
Another Sunday, another stumbling out of bed hung over to read the New York Times. Or, in the case of you layabouts, having us read it for you. Let’s start with things that actually make us happy, shall we?
There’s a lovely little profile of writer Pete Hamill and his Sunday routine, which is basically read–eat–sleep–eat–read–sleep and sounds like the best thing ever. We’d complain about how we do not get the midday walking or sleeping in, but we are not 78 years old with ten-plus books to our credit. There’s also an interview with the former United States poet laureate Billy Collins, who has a new book of poems, Aimless Love,out this month. We direct your attention to this in large part because Billy Collins wrote one of our favorite poems ever, “Another Reason I Don’t Keep A Gun In The House.”
In keeping with what how we are all literary types up in here, we also checked out Calvin Trillin’s piece about his decade-long friendly argument with Cynthia Ozick about how Trillin’s grandfather’s name should be pronounced.
Cynthia Ozick’s argument, laid out in a closely reasoned letter she sent me a dozen years ago, included the fact that Yekutiel was a common name where my grandfather came from. At the time, the Hebrew letter taf was pronounced in Europe as an “S” — a pronunciation that lasted throughout my childhood. After the founding of Israel, Sephardic Hebrew, which pronounced the taf as a “T,” took over — completely, by the way, without my consent. Kusel, she said, was a shortening of what would have sounded like Yekusiel. She even rounded up some distinguished Yekusiels, like Yekusiel ben Yehuda Ha-Cohen of Prague, a grammarian who lived in the 13th century.
My side of the argument would be summarized fairly, I think, as, “He was my grandfather.”
Also nice: teh gheys are taking over the nation’s capital. The article has a host of complex reasons about friendliness, changing demographics, political evolutions that have led to this maximum homo state, but we all know that all teh gheys flock to DC so they can cruise Patrick Howley, at least in Howley’s fevered imaginings.
To wash the taste of nice out of your brain, there’s a tedious little Q&A with yet another master of the universe. This time, it’s Bob Pittman of Clear Channel, a company that is a terrifying rapacious faceless blob of race-to-the-bottom identical low quality radio. What wisdom does Bob have? Work hard, encourage dissent…oh, fuck it. We just do not care. One day someone will do one of these stupid Q&As and go full on dadaist or threaten to murder the interviewer or something else exciting, but until then just expect an endless parade of “hard work and thought leadering made me who I am” crap.
The Sunday NYT never fails to make us want to storm the barricades and start a class war, and this week is no exception. Did you need an homage to what a delight it is to have custom made stationery? But of course!
I have had many types of stationery, but one of the few that I love most is from Cartier. I designed it in New York a couple of years ago at their custom-made stationery boutique, which is the only store that provides that service. If you are in Paris, they don’t do it.
So hard when you’re at the Cartier in Paris and they won’t make you the exact writing paper you desire. The French are such Philistines. Nothing left to do but hop in the jet and head back to NYC where you can get your paper custom made in peace. This isn’t the stone ages, for fuck’s sake. People have needs.
Needs like exquisite Bulgari jewelry, a land where the buyers and sellers of outsized baubles traffic in so much monies that they can forget they are carrying around squidzillions of dollars of gems.
Another time in Jaipur, in northern India, she was shown 25 walnut-size emeralds that she thought were too dark. She wanted them all cut in half to add lightness. The supplier was concerned that the delicate gems might splinter and lose value. A year later, she saw him again in New York on a separate matter. “Oh, I almost forgot to show you something,” he said, and presented her with the 25 Jaipur emeralds, now cut into perfect halves.
Don’t you just hate it when you forget to show off your cut emeralds? We do.
People also need $26 million limestone townhouses with a rooftop soaking pool because of course they do. If you can’t really get your brain around what an enormous amount of money that is, think about this: the annual taxes alone on the place run $110,000. Your hovel may not even be worth $110,000 (ours isn’t!) in total, so now hang your head in shame because you are not enormously rich. Now hang your head in shame even lower. No, lower. LOOOWWWWEERR. Good. Now you’re in a state abject enough to tackle the opinion page.
Maureen Dowd is absent this week, which you’d think would lighten the load considerably but then you will read Thomas Friedman and haha your NYT op-ed burden is eternal and awful. Thomas Friedman somehow snuck an utterly uncritical book review of a friend’s new tome onto the op-ed pages. Let’s imagine that newsroom conversation, shall we?
Friedman: I want to write a review of this new bookby my buddy, Ari Shavit, about Israel.
Editor: Sure, we’ll have you write it up for the Book Review section.
Friedman: (sniffs, draws self up to full height) Me? In the Book Review section? Never.
Editor: (harried, tired, paid 1/3 of what Friedman gets and stuck with managing Friedman’s ego) Listen, the op-ed page is for opinion pieces. You have to write us an opinion piece. It’s in your contract that you churn out at least one piece of drivel for us weekly.
Friedman: Fine! I’ll write about Bamz and Netanyahu talking. (Stomps off).
So what does Friedman do? You guessed it. He writes about 10 words about how Barack and Bibi talked on the phone this week, and uses it to launch into logrolling his friend’s book and how great it is because it says that Israel is complex and multifaceted. WHO KNEW??? The review/op-ed/cut-and-paste job is just 1000 words of strung-together quotes from the book with a few transitions thrown in. It reads like an 8th-grader’s book report where said 8th grader was really struggling to hit the word count. Do not for one second think about how much money Thomas Friedman got to write this column. No, really. Stop it. Remind yourself that you don’t have to read MoDo this week and turn to grappling with Ross Douthat.
In a pleasant surprise/respite, Douthat’s column this week is not awful. Now, we won’t go so far as to say it is good, of course, but it isn’t terrible. They’re letting him trot out his feels on health care again, but rather than just using it as a cudgel to beat Democrats or talk about how civilization is ruining itself with sluttiness, he instead engages in some reasonably astute thinking about why this particular round of reform has been so difficult.
This status quo bias is structural rather than ideological; it frustrates limited-government conservatives as well as liberal technocrats. But the frustration has been much more acute and ironic for Democrats, who find themselves handcuffed by the very achievements they aspire to emulate, and attacked by the beneficiaries of yesterday’s liberal programs when they attempt to propose programs for tomorrow.
Yay Ross! This week’s essay shows some really solid analysis and is much better than your past work this school year. You get a B! Keep working. Little Tommy Friedman, your habit of simply mashing up ideas and copying other people’s thoughts has got to stop. Your book report gets a D, and we’re sending a letter home to your mother this week.