- The Washington Times - Monday, April 18, 2005

‘Mainly an excuse’

“‘I have the silliest job in the world and I can’t believe they pay me for it,’ Pamela Anderson has said in an interview. But what exactly is Anderson’s job? It seems to be best defined negatively: ‘I’m not an actress. I don’t think I am an actress,’ she told Larry King in 2002. ‘I think I’ve created a brand and a business.’ In recent years, that brand has diversified in ways that make Martha Stewart look lazy: The world-renowned pinup has developed three of her own television projects, written two syndicated women’s magazine columns … authored two novels based on her own scandal-filled life, launched a clothing line, and appeared on her own slot machines. Whatever Pam’s job is, she’s … good at it, remaining a full-on, ratings-boosting, adolescent-fantasy-inspiring sex symbol at an age [37] when most actresses are already beginning to moan about the lack of roles for ‘older’ women. …

“For a Fox sitcom starring Pamela Anderson, ‘Stacked’ is surprisingly mild-mannered; it’s no ‘Frasier,’ granted, but it has something of that show’s gentle, character-based humor and bookish wit. … But let’s face it: It’s mainly an excuse to look at Pamela Anderson, which … remains a strangely compelling thing to do.”

Dana Stevens, writing on “Genuine Fake,” Thursday in Slate, at www.slate.com

Strange truth

“‘The truth, whatever it is, is strange.’ I can still hear Saul’s voice, for a few moments absent its gaiety and its wickedness, gently pronouncing those emancipating words. It was a summer afternoon in 1977. … When I met Bellow, he was in his theosophical enthusiasm. The legend of his worldliness went before him, obviously, not least in his all-observing, wised-up books, which proclaimed the profane charisma of common experience. …

“Saul’s particular combination of intellectuality and vitality was not paradoxical, it was category-shattering. … Was ever a bookish soul so cracklingly unmediated, so flush with raw life? He was as vivid physically as he was mentally, almost perversely alert, completely at home in the world of matter, repulsed by tedium.”

Leon Wieseltier, writing on “Saul,” in the April 25 issue of the New Republic

The pope’s divisions

“Stalin is reported to have mocked the Catholic Church with his famous remark, ‘The pope — how many divisions has the pope?’ Stalin’s successors found out the hard way. The Russian writer Ilya Ehrenburg wrote during the dark years of Stalinism: ‘If the whole world were to be covered with asphalt, one day a crack would appear in that asphalt; and in that crack, grass would grow.’ The selection of Pope John Paul II in 1978 was more than a crack in the asphalt; it was a veritable rending of the Iron Curtain, suggestive of the Savior’s rending of the curtain in the temple in the gospel accounts. …

“Pope John Paul II will be recalled by historians centuries from now as one of the key figures in bringing down what his famous collaborator Ronald Reagan rightly called ‘the Evil Empire.’ That such an unlikely gnome of a man as Karol Wojtyla — Pope John Paul II’s given name — would turn out to be the irresistible force that turned the tide against the Soviet empire in Eastern Europe is testament to the inscrutable ways of God.”

Steven Hayward, writing on “Be Not Afraid,” in an editorial for the Ashbrook Center at www.ashbrook.org

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