Short on bandwidth for books lately, so my bedstand’s a nest of mags and newspapers. The August 21st issue of the New Yorker has been so satisfying I’m inspired to share two bits:
“Conflicts of Interest” by Nicholas Lemann: Why all the hating on lobbyists and special interests? According to the early-20th-century theorist Arthur Bentley, these groups are the sum and substance of politics, not its nadir. Lemann’s review of Thomas Frank’s Wrecking Crew questions the pervasive liberal assumption that Republicans are the party of voracious self interest while Dems are out for the greater good (certainly my bias leans this way). Bentley would argue that is there is no greater good, only competing groups vying for their own interests. Lemann reveals Frank’s false dichotomy between conservative villains and libreal angels: when one group of companies and their supporters and lobbyists battle another group of companies, their supporters and lobbyists, how to tease out who’s acting in “the public interest?”
“Dinner Party” by Joshua Ferris: I didn’t love “Then We Came to the End,” Ferris’s novel about life as a copywriter in a doomed agency, probably because the scenarios evoked too much of what makes me cringe about my own life. In “Dinner Party,” the peevish narrator tries to sabotage his wife’s enthusiasm for their imminent dinner party, oblivious to the damage he’s inflicting. Again, Ferris hits a nerve, but this time builds to a surprising and shattering conclusion.