Category: Writing

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...