Daily Archives: July 21, 2009

“Birther” smackdown

Over at TPM is a great smackdown of a Republican Congressman who appears to be supporting the wacko “Birther” idea that Obama was not born in the the US and therefore is not eligible to be president. It is just nonsense, of course, but people are running with it. So Chris Matthews Questions Rep. John Campbell (R-CA) About Birther Bill and does something great: he whips out Obama’s birth certificate! So for all those Birthers out there saying that no one has seen it…well, go see. And then be quiet.

I have been enjoying smackdowns of people like this all week.  All those nuts who said Neil Armstrong never landed on the moon have been taken apart on blogs and forums whenever they popped up and said the moon landings never happened.

It is fine to have serious debates and discussions about contentious topics, but things like this deserve contempt.

Koba the Dread: Amis, Hitchens, and Sebald and the problem of the novelist-historian

I just finished “Koba the Dread” by Martin Amis. Following that, I read this review of it in The Atlantic | September 2002 | “Lightness at Midnight” | Hitchens. It makes sense to read a review by Hitchens: he is minor subject in the book, and he clearly knows the subject matter itself. I think both the book and the review are great: Amis writes much better than most historians, and Hitchens writes much better than most reviewers. I don’t think Hitchens answered Amis’s criticisms of him fully, but he does a thorough job of pointing out the many limitations of Amis’s work. Despite that, I highly recommend you read both.

I brought Sebald into this, however, because I think the critics of Amis make a mistake similar to those made by those criticizing Sebald’s On the Natural History of Destruction. In both cases, you have superb novelists writing about history. In both cases, the reviewers were criticizing their historical skills. However, I think in both cases, that misses the point. Both Sebald and Amis do not give up being novelists when they are writing their histories. If anything, they are creating a new genre that is the reverse of historical novel. I think that new genre could be criticized, but to not see that this new hybrid and not analyze both aspects of the work is to miss out on a substantial part of it. If anything, it is closer to the New Journalism of Capote, Thompson, Wolfe and others.

I’d be interested to know if people who have read Koba the Dread and On the Natural History of Destruction thought the same thing.

The girl with two hearts

According to New Scientist:

A British girl has recovered fully after spending 10 years with an extra heart transplanted alongside her own.

How can you not go and read the rest of the story?

(Found on kottke.org)