Steven Pinker’s The Sense of Style is a maddening book, much the way doctoral students are maddening. At once a style guide, a work of aesthetics, and an overeducated explanation of writing precepts that many unwashed composition teachers nationwide already understand, it is a book sometimes too smart to get out of its own way.
The book’s strengths are evident. Its six chapters use Pinker’s expertise in cognitive psychology and linguistics to demystify and to articulate how writing, both good and bad, gets written. Pinker advocates a “classic style” grounded in the visual and attentive to the action-based, cause-and-effect relations of stories.
Enoch Powell once remarked, “all political lives, unless they are cut off in midstream at a happy juncture, end in failure.” Nelson Rockefeller, so unlike the gloomy Powell, would have agreed, and said so in his way. Near the end of his life, he told a former staffer “you’ve got to understand something. When you are a has-been you are a has-been. I am a has-been.”
A few weeks later, Rockefeller was found dead in his New York townhouse. He lay naked on the floor of a room strewn with papers (he was working on a book about his mother’s folk art collection) unfinished boxes of Chinese food, and a bottle of Dom Pérignon. The paramedics were greeted by a young woman less than half Rockefeller’s age, dressed in an outfit “variously described as a black evening gown and a caftan, fully zipped.”
A Pennsylvania man’s extensive wine collection is on the verge of destruction. The state is planning to pour out thousands of bottles of wine, including many rare labels, after a police sting found the owner was selling the wine out of his home.
Since I’ve spent all week writing about videogames and comic books, I figured I’d class the joint up a little bit and offer some fashion tips. Inspired by this rather, well, dull list of places to buy suits in Washington by the scamps at DCist*, allow me to suggest a few options that you may not have heard of. Note: This list is almost entirely aspirational. As a humble journalist my clothing budget is tight and new items are acquired on a need-to-buy basis.
Odds are audiences will notice that Birdman or The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance doesn’t quite feel like any other film they’ve seen. But they may not be sure why, at first. Constantly in motion, yet contained almost entirely within and around a smallish Broadway theater and a nearby bar, Birdman will feel to them fluid, alive, and ethereal—different from most big screen fare.
John Wick is a perfect movie.
Note: I’m not saying it’s the perfect movie or the best movie or even a great movie. I’m saying it’s a perfect movie.
Francis Fukuyama ought to be locked up and forbidden from writing again, if only for his crimes against the noble profession of book reviewers. This class of scribblers likes to start formulating their thoughts about a book early in the reading process. It’s best if the author lays out their entire argument in the introduction, so that the reviewer can proceed with ever increasing speed through what are, strictly speaking, unnecessary central chapters, before arriving at a conclusion that helpfully reminds them of what they liked or didn’t like during the early bits. Fareed Zakaria books are particularly well suited for this.
As I’ve noted elsewhere, the most amusing aspect of the whole #GamerGate phenomenon (background here and here and here) has been the angry progressive media types confusedly looking around trying to figure out how we got to a point where they would be targeted for boycotts and the like for casual comments they have made. As Varad Mehta noted,
Crazy, right? They don’t quite understand the world they’ve created. They think it’s the worst thing in the whole world for Internet Tough Guys to make death and rape threats* and also that it’s cool to joke about Bristol Palin actually being physically assaulted by a man. Because stoopid Rethuglicans, you know? Most amusingly, they don’t even seem to understand the contradiction. So they get really butthurt when someone else whips up an Internet rage mob against them. “Don’t you understand?” they seem to be crying. “We’re the good guys here! We only take on bad people! Those Other people. That aren’t good. Like us!”