- The Washington Times - Sunday, March 21, 2004

Writing for money

“When [William Faulkner] died, piles of letters, packages, and manuscripts sent by admirers were found, none of which he had opened. In fact, the only letters he did open were letters from publishers, and then only very cautiously: he would make a tiny slit in the envelope and then shake it to see if a check appeared. If it didn’t, then the letter would simply join all those other things that can wait forever. …

“He always had a keen interest in checks, but one should not deduce from this that he was a greedy man or, indeed, stingy. He was, in fact, something of a spendthrift. He got through any money he earned very quickly, then lived on credit for a while until the next check arrived. He would then pay his debts and start spending again, mostly on horses, cigarettes, and whiskey. … He always said that he had written ‘Sanctuary,’ his most commercial novel, for money: ‘I needed it to buy a good horse.’”

Javier Marias, writing on “William Horseback,” in the spring issue of the Threepenny Review

Academic ‘goulash’

“The fact that faculties on most American campuses are predominantly Democratic is perhaps less significant than their adherence to what one writer called ‘Left Eclecticism,’ that intellectual goulash composed of varying bits of Marxism, feminism, racialism, deconstruction, post-colonialism, and other specimens of academic ‘theory.’

“The triumph of Left Eclecticism means that campus ‘diversity’ involves not only political but also intellectual conformity. For although Left Eclecticism comes in many modes and levels of toxicity, it revolves around a common core of attitudes. One unalterable tenet is that ‘everything is political’: that the traditional academic ideals of objectivity and disinterestedness are pernicious fictions and therefore that all academic pursuits can be, indeed must be, evaluated in political terms. This is why, for example, you so seldom see the word ‘truth’ without scare quotes in academic writing these days.”

From “A stupid party,” an editorial in the March issue of the New Criterion

Their own way

“Has there ever been a less-influential great band than Fleetwood Mac? The three albums they’ve just reissued in expanded form made them international stars in the 1970s and 1980s. … And yet almost nobody has tried ripping off Fleetwood Mac’s basic sound and style — even unsuccessfully. … Bonnie Tyler and Courtney Love have tried to evoke the white-winged-dove essence of singer Stevie Nicks — but Stevie Nicks is not the same thing as Fleetwood Mac.

“And that’s part of the problem in trying to imitate them. In the late-‘70s period documented by these reissues, the band had three front-people — Nicks, Lindsey Buckingham and Christine McVie — who individually wrote and sang major hits, an almost impossible feat. …

“What really made these three albums tick, though — and made their sound basically irreproducible — was that late-‘70s Fleetwood Mac was an improbable balancing act, powered by internal conflicts and bizarre chemistry. … A California-to-the-core studio obsessive with a permanent case of the jitters (Buckingham), a dreamy mystical type with a gift for ornate, languorous melodies (Nicks), and a veteran British rhythm section with roots in raw electric blues. … Try faking that combination.”

Douglas Wolk, writing on “Going Their Own Way,” Friday in Slate at www.slate.com

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