Category: Writing

Poem: Here, Then Gone

He wrote more plays than most people read In a lifetime. Some of them were quite good said the accrediting minyans Worthy of prizes and pull-quotes, if not actual Attendance, or protracted reflection. (Never mind that most audiences found the dramas over-long and tendentious, Allusive and dreamy and Largely about colored folks they didn’t know...

The Truth About Travel Writing

Since there’s probably a good novel or two in this subject, I can’t divulge all the dirty secrets at the moment. But I can say summarily that spending close to 15 years as a professional travel writer exposed me to the weakest sense of ethics and the highest exchange rate of quid pro quo you’ll...

Jared Diamond, Television Phenomenon

The historian, biologist and UCLA Professor Jared Diamond has accomplished a feat more rare than altruistic Congressmen. He’s transcended the anonymity and general irrelevance of academia. Like Camille Paglia, Alan Dershowitz, and Noam Chomsk, Diamond is a scholar who’s achieved pop culture notoriety. His two best known books, the recent “Collapse,” and “Guns, Germs, and...

How Many Books?

Overheard at a party: A young mother complaining that ever since her pre-pubescent son discovered the lurid joys of Playstation video games, he had stopped reading. Completely. Much solemn murmuring followed the mother’s admission. What could be done, everyone wondered? How could this putatively heinous state of affairs be reversed? What we wondered was this: How...

Critical Acclaim or Paying Off the Mortgage?

Movie studios, television producers, and publishers distribute creative products in the interest of making money, of showing a healthy return on investment. Period. They aren’t in the business of making art, bettering the world, or leaving something of lasting value behind for future generations. They want to sell things, preferably millions of copies of those...

A Gambling Book Worth Reading

The vast majority of books about gambling hold out the faint (and mostly spurious) promise that they’ll help you somehow gamble better. Or smarter. Or longer. They suggest, usually erroneously, that they contain some sort of heretofore unexpressed secret about beating unbeatable games. These books may be safely ignored, unless you’re a hopeless degenerate who...

This Mysterious Notion of Quality

People blessed with this amorphous attribute we call “taste” like to congratulate themselves for being able to discern the difference between that which is good and salutary and that which is bad and degrading. (Those who are too busy or distracted to make such distinctions rely on taste consultants known as reviewers.) Books, music, paintings,...

A Subtle Hazard of Reading the Wall Street Journal

As a counterbalance to the reflexively liberal Los Angeles Times, which we read every morning, we also read the reflexively conservative Wall Street Journal on weekdays. The paper is extraordinarily well-written, and its non-news feature articles are better than those in most magazines. The problem with reading the WSJ every morning, though, is that you soon discover the way the...