- The Washington Times - Monday, November 29, 2004

Famous dropout

“William Faulkner has, by now, become a classic, one of those rare authors who never goes out of style, in part because he enjoys an exalted place on the syllabus of any self-respecting class in American literature. …

“It has taken the dedicated work of professors and academic critics over a period of decades to make sure that Faulkner has an audience. …

“It fascinates me that Faulkner, a huge beneficiary of the academy’s loving attention, was himself almost phobic when it came to universities and schools, at least until his later years, when he established a fairly comfortable relationship with the University of Virginia.

“For the most part, Faulkner shunned academe. He was self-educated, like Ernest Hemingway and so many writers of his generation. He had been, at best, an indifferent student, never finishing high school in Oxford, Miss. He entered the 11th grade, in September 1915, only to play football. When the season ended (somewhat ingloriously), he dropped out.”

Parini, writing on “William Faulkner: ‘Not an Educated Man,’” in last Friday’s issue of the Chronicle of Higher Education

Fat reality

“Earlier this year, Fox was forced to cancel two gay-themed reality shows … due to protests from advocacy groups and general viewer indifference. … But the evil forces that plot new reality shows have now turned their attention to a new sideshow attraction: the overweight.

“Reality television has chosen this season to mine the American obsession with body size. ‘The Biggest Loser’ … a weight-loss-themed reality series in which two teams of dieters … compete to see who can lose the most pounds per week, has been expanded from an hour to an hour and a half per week. VH1’s ‘Flab to Fab’ … subjects overweight fans to the diet and exercise regimens of their favorite celebrities. … Finally, there’s Toccara, who, until she was voted off the show last week, was the ‘plus-sized’ anomaly among the svelte beauties on this season’s ‘America’s Next Top Model.’ …

“The title of ‘The Biggest Loser’ says it all: The more you lose, the more you win, but even if you take first place, you’re still a loser.”

Dana Stevens, writing on “The Weight,” Nov. 22 in Slate at www.slate.com

Hoops hooligans

“Just when everybody was getting bored with the Terrell Owens/’Desperate Housewives’ teaser, the Detroit Pistons and Indiana Pacers put on a nice little riot for television to run and rerun. The world of television sports, it seems, is less and less about the games. Sex and violence make for more dependably good television. …

“There may be people who believe that ABC didn’t really understand that the little seduction scene between Owens and the blonde who dropped her towel might strike some people as inappropriate — to use contemporary, nonjudgmental jargon. These folks no doubt remain convinced that Janet Jackson experienced a ‘wardrobe malfunction,’ during her Super Bowl halftime skit. They also believe in the tooth fairy and the integrity of the United Nations. …

“The fracas in Detroit was not scripted but it was, nevertheless, inevitable. The NBA sells a product that might as well be called ‘gangstaball.’ The players are world-class dunkers, exhibitionists, and malcontents. … As the quality of play has declined in the NBA over the last several years, so have fan interest and television ratings.”

ffrey Norman, writing on “Gangstaball,” last Tuesday in National Review Online at www.nationalreview.com

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