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Book Debate Pt II: American Psycho

September 8, 2008 — 7 Comments

So my ‘What book will they use to teach about the 80s and 90s?’ question ended up getting picked up by Marginal Revolution and then made in the LA Times Book Blog – who for some reason, linked to him but not me. (and was discussed here, here and here.

The more I think about itAmerican Psycho is the only choice that works. Although the movie sucks and Patrick Bateman has sort of been embraced by exactly the sort of people that Ellis is criticizing, it has the one thing that all the other books have in common: a moral stance on the decades in question.

“I am weeping for myself, unable to find solace in any of this, crying out, sobbing “I just want to be loved,” cursing the earth and everything I have been taught: principles, distinctions, choices, morals, compromises, knowledge, unity prayer–all of it was wrong, without any final purpose. All it came down to was: die or adapt. I imagine my own vacant face, the disembodied voice coming from its mouth: These are terrible times.”

Bret Easton Ellis

American Psycho

“Ellis is, first and last, a moralist. Under the cover of his laconic voice, every word in his novels springs from grieving outrage at our spiritual condition.” – Los Angeles Times Book Review

I’m not sure there is a better choice in fiction than Ellis.


September 5, 2008 — 6 Comments

Taleb, writes that hard work and planning gets you a Mercedes. Black Swans get you a private jet. What do you try to take from this? Humility in the face of things I can’t control. And to learn to be happy and content with the results of the parts I can.

What is the ‘classic’ book of the 80′s and 90s?

September 3, 2008 — 40 Comments

When I was in high school our reading list went something like this:

The Scarlet Letter (colonial America)

The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (slavery)

The Red Badge of Courage (sometimes for civil war)

The Jungle (turn of the century)

All Quiet on the Western Front (WWI)

The Great Gatsby (20′s)

Of Mice and Men (30s)

Catcher in the Rye (50′s and 60′s)

Fahrenheit 451 (Cold War)

And then if I remember correctly, it sort of dribbles off from there to miscellaneous short stories (The Things They Carried, etc) Yours might be a little different so plug in The Grapes of Wrath, To Kill a Mockingbird, The Crucible or Invisible Man as needed.

So what book will be required reading for the 80′s and 90′s? The qualifications being that it says something about those decades, not where it’s publication date happens to fall.

I’m almost positive that it will be American Pyscho or Fight Club and although most people disagree with me, none of them can suggest a decent alternative.

Update: Tyler Cowen picked it up which is awesome

People as a Proper Occupation

September 1, 2008 — 12 Comments

What would happen if you started being effusively pleasant to other people. You smiled. Said hello without provocation. Introduced yourself. Apologized or said excuse me. What if you tried to really empathize. Used explanation instead of authority. If you met the world more than halfway.

Ask this guy. He’s a totally different person. I don’t mean it condescendingly, it is profoundly inspiring.

Being a malcontent is like a disease. It eats at you. You stew and rage and bitch and whine and yell. It’s awful. Not that it doesn’t have it’s place, but it’s generally awful. And being the opposite – not just tolerating people but actively accepting and enjoying them – it’s like an injection into your life.

When psychologists force patients to contact facial muscles to emulate, say, happiness or anger, subjects report increased feelings of that actual emotion. In other words, your externalities can become your reality.

I’m not very good at it. But when I do it, it’s transformative.

What I’m Reading

August 31, 2008 — 6 Comments

His Panic: Why Americans Fear Hispanics in the U.S. by Geraldo Rivera (actually a very intelligent book)

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald (again. might be my favorite book and i think perhaps, the greatest work of fiction)

‘Tis: A Memoir by Frank McCourt (does anyone know if McCourts of New York is worth seeing?)

Nudge: Improving Decisions About Health, Wealth, and Happiness by Richard H. Thaler (design with intent is a fascinating topic. Architectures of Control is one of my favorite blogs)

The Book of Imaginary Beings by Jorge Luis Borges (metafiction like this is very creative. also, it’s about weird animals)

Meditations by Marcus Aurelius (rereading with a clean copy)

What Could Make Someone Want to Leave New York and Move to Buffalo? — New York Magazine (great piece)

LA’s Hidden Homeless — LA Times

Seth Robert’s thoroughly dismantles a NY Time’s reporter who has no idea what he’s talking about

My buddy made this site, and I want to know where you get a blanket like that