Wednesday, July 17, 2024

the last book I ever read (The Last Politician: Inside Joe Biden's White House and the Struggle for America's Future, excerpt nine)

from The Last Politician: Inside Joe Biden's White House and the Struggle for America's Future by Franklin Foer:

If Credit Suisse is correct, then the tax credits will unleash $ 1.7 trillion in private sector spending on green technologies. Within six years, solar and wind energy produced by the US will be the cheapest in the world. Alternative energies will cross a threshold: it will become financially irresponsible not to use them.

Even though Joe Biden played a negligible role in the final negotiations, the Inflation Reduction Act exudes his preferences. He romanticizes the idea of factories building stuff. It is a vision of the Goliath of American manufacturing, seemingly moribund, sprung back to life. At the same time that the legislation helps to stall climate change, it allows the United States to dominate the industries of the future.

This was a bill that, in the end, climate activists and a broad swath of industry could love. Indeed, strikingly few business lobbies, other than finance and pharma, tried to stymie the bill in its final stages. It was a far cry from the death struggles over energy legislation in the Clinton and Obama administrations, when industry scuppered transformational legislation.

The Inflation Reduction Act will allow the United States to prevent its own decline. And not just economic decline. Without such a meaningful program, the United States would have had no standing to prod other countries to respond more aggressively to climate change. It would have been a marginal player in shaping the response to the planet’s greatest challenge. The bill was an investment in moral authority.



Tuesday, July 16, 2024

the last book I ever read (The Last Politician: Inside Joe Biden's White House and the Struggle for America's Future, excerpt eight)

from The Last Politician: Inside Joe Biden's White House and the Struggle for America's Future by Franklin Foer:

That Alito served as the mouthpiece for the majority was probably all one needed to know. Where Chief Justice John Roberts cuts a genteel figure, Alito wages Kulturkampf with the ferocity of a man who views himself as civilization’s last best hope. He has the zeal of the late Antonin Scalia without the humor or the need to be liked.

The decision, in draft form, wasn’t Solomonic reasoning. It read like a strident essay in National Review, not even bothering with the pretense of persuading the other side. He wrote, “Roe was egregiously wrong from the start. Its reasoning was exceptionally weak, and the decision has had damaging consequences.”

For months, the White House knew there was a possibility a decision like this might land. A small working group, led by Jennifer Klein (director of the White House Gender Policy Council) and Dana Remus (White House counsel), prepared options for the president—a slate of policies and executive orders that he could roll out in the event of a decision like Dobbs. With the Politico leak, the White House was no longer dealing with hypotheticals. It knew roughly what it would confront. The time had arrived to get Biden’s take.



Monday, July 15, 2024

the last book I ever read (The Last Politician: Inside Joe Biden's White House and the Struggle for America's Future, excerpt seven)

from The Last Politician: Inside Joe Biden's White House and the Struggle for America's Future by Franklin Foer:

Biden obsessed over gas prices. It sometimes seemed that Biden couldn’t go through a meeting without asking about the price at the pump. He asked that a report on gas prices be included in the binder that he took home with him every evening to peruse.

He was convinced that the fossil fuel industry was using the war in Russia as a pretext for profiteering—and because the oil companies had every incentive to restore Republican majorities in Congress, some of his aides were convinced that they were going to screw Biden by keeping prices high.

Even if his energy policy intended to wean America from fossil fuels, he wasn’t going to let that policy objective get in the way of his party’s political survival, or of blunting inflation’s toll on the consumer. He kept ordering oil released from the government’s Strategic Petroleum Reserve to drive down prices. Indeed, each time he added a fresh batch of oil to the world’s supply, the cost of the commodity dropped. Over the months, after he released 180 million barrels of oil, the reserve dwindled to its lowest levels since the 1980s.



Saturday, July 13, 2024

the last book I ever read (The Last Politician: Inside Joe Biden's White House and the Struggle for America's Future, excerpt six)

from The Last Politician: Inside Joe Biden's White House and the Struggle for America's Future by Franklin Foer:

What did Joe Manchin want? The answer was slippery. He clearly didn’t like the size of the Build Back Better proposal, which now totaled $3.5 trillion. There was evidence of rising inflation, and Manchin didn’t want a fresh injection of government spending compounding the problem. But was he bargaining in good faith to create a bill that allayed his substantive concerns? Or was he preparing to grind Biden down with an endless negotiation on behalf of his friends in the fossil fuel industry back in West Virginia?

The thing about Manchin is that he is like a Faulkner novel, a stream of consciousness monologue that could be painfully difficult to read, since the point of view kept shifting. But there was one consistent sentiment that he mouthed in nearly every meeting and that reassured Ron Klain. Even as he expressed his doubts, he kept telling Biden, “Don’t worry, Mr. President, we’re going to get this done.” So instead of constantly reinterpreting Manchin, the White House assumed that most of his outbursts were just noise, which could be largely ignored.



Friday, July 12, 2024

the last book I ever read (The Last Politician: Inside Joe Biden's White House and the Struggle for America's Future, excerpt five)

from The Last Politician: Inside Joe Biden's White House and the Struggle for America's Future by Franklin Foer:

But then suddenly, the Taliban boarded a bus and began demanding that the Albania-bound women unveil so that their faces could more thoroughly be checked against their passport photos. For the first time, the Taliban said that the women couldn’t leave without an Albanian visa—but that document had never been issued to them.

A member of the staff of Vital Voices, one of the NGOs that Clinton had cofounded, was already in Tirana, the Albanian capital, to begin securing housing for the White Scarves. She went to the foreign ministry and spent the night creating an electronic visa that could be sent to the White Scarves on their phones. The Albanians felt that a QR code would make the email look more official. Since there was a bag of potato chips sitting around, they took a photo of the QR code on the side of the packaging and appended it to the improvised visa.

When the White Scarves showed the Taliban the visa on their phones, it was good enough. The women on the bus escaped to Albania—and so did more than one thousand other Afghan women and their families who Hillary Clinton and her groups managed to rescue.



Thursday, July 11, 2024

the last book I ever read (The Last Politician: Inside Joe Biden's White House and the Struggle for America's Future, excerpt four)

from The Last Politician: Inside Joe Biden's White House and the Struggle for America's Future by Franklin Foer:

Afghanistan was a collective trauma for the administration, especially the State Department. When Wendy Sherman, the deputy secretary of state, went to check in with members of a task force working on the evacuation, she found grizzled diplomats in tears. She estimated that a quarter of the State Department’s personnel had served in Afghanistan, at one point or another. They felt a connection with the country, an emotional entanglement. Fielding an overwhelming volume of emails describing hardship cases, they had an easy time imaging the faces of refugees. Even in the seat of American power, they felt the shame and anger that comes with the inability to help. To deal with trauma, the State Department brought a therapy dog into the building with the hope that it might help ease the staff’s pain.

In the crisis, the State Department redirected the attention of its sprawling apparatus to Afghanistan. Embassies in Mexico City and New Delhi became call centers. Staff in those distant capitals assumed the role of caseworkers, assigned to stay in touch with the remaining American citizens in Afghanistan. They tracked their flights and helped counsel them through the terrifying weeks.

Sherman sent her Afghan-born chief of staff, Mustafa Popal, to Hamid Karzai International Airport to support John Bass. All day long, she responded to pleas for help: from foreign governments, who joined a daily video conference she hosted; from Yo-Yo Ma, who kept writing on behalf of an orchestra; from members of Congress. There was a moment in the midst of the crush when Sherman felt compelled to travel down to the first floor, to spend fifteen escapist minutes cuddling with the therapy dog.



Wednesday, July 10, 2024

the last book I ever read (The Last Politician: Inside Joe Biden's White House and the Struggle for America's Future, excerpt three)

from The Last Politician: Inside Joe Biden's White House and the Struggle for America's Future by Franklin Foer:

For his primary negotiating partner from the other side of the aisle, Portman worked with Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona. Even among the small group of moderate Democrats in the gang, there was a sense that Portman outfoxed them with his choice. Sinema could generously be described as mercurial. When she first ran for Senate in Arizona in 2018, she faced accusations that she exaggerated her up-from-poverty biography for dramatic effect. In a short time, she went from being an activist affiliated with the Green Party to the sort of politician that activists hounded. Yes, she transgressed the unspoken sartorial rules of the stodgy chamber with adventurous fashion choices. But she also zealously raised money from business interests, and her voting record reflected that alliance.

Portman and Sinema were fellow moderates, but profoundly different creatures. Portman had spent years preparing budgets and negotiating with foreign governments on behalf of the United States. He fixated on details. His colleagues complained about how tight he held the purse strings. Where Portman traveled with a small army of wonks—he usually brought a war room full of staffers with him to negotiations—Sinema would show up in his office with just her chief of staff. It was asymmetrical warfare, and the Democrats knew it.



Tuesday, July 9, 2024

the last book I ever read (The Last Politician: Inside Joe Biden's White House and the Struggle for America's Future, excerpt two)

from The Last Politician: Inside Joe Biden's White House and the Struggle for America's Future by Franklin Foer:

As the meeting began, the leaders posed for the requisite photo session, along with Tony Blinken and foreign minister Sergei Lavrov. They sat in the library surrounded by leather-bound volumes, a globe separating the pair, as if harkening back to the day when the world was divided into spheres of influence. Putin posed in the disaffected slouch that he reserved for occasions like this, a technique to distract from his own diminutive stature. Biden once described the pose to a friend as that of an “asshole schoolkid.”

When the press left the room, Putin’s body language changed. He suddenly seemed less diffident. The Russian press had spent months portraying Biden as a fragile old man, a piece of spin that Putin internalized. But when he greeted Biden, he seemed taken aback by his appearance. “You look good,” he exclaimed. It was an observation that he kept repeating. When Putin called Angela Merkel to deliver his postmortem of the meeting, he told her, “President Biden is very fit.”



Monday, July 8, 2024

the last book I ever read (The Last Politician: Inside Joe Biden's White House and the Struggle for America's Future, excerpt one)

from The Last Politician: Inside Joe Biden's White House and the Struggle for America's Future by Franklin Foer:

On the morning of January 20, Klain might have preferred to attend in person the inaugural ceremony of the man whose political career he worked so hard to advance. But he was missing it, stuck in the building at the behest of Trump’s chief of staff, Mark Meadows.

Ever since the November election, much of the Trump administration acted as if the Biden people were engaged in a hostile takeover of the government. They refused to share the most basic details that would allow the incoming administration to prepare for the monumental tasks in front of it. A pandemic was raging—and the Trump people withheld access to civil servants and government data that would have provided the Biden White House with a basic sense of the government’s vaccination program. When Biden officials asked Trump’s trade negotiator for details about the state of conversations with China, he refused. Trump appointees at the Office of Management and Budget broke with generations of practice and prevented civil servants from helping Biden aides prepare the budget that they were legally required to submit to Congress in February.

After all that petty obstruction, Meadows’s invitation to meet felt like an act of comity that shouldn’t be shirked.



Friday, June 28, 2024

the last book I ever read (The Kingdom, the Power, and the Glory: American Evangelicals in an Age of Extremism by Tim Alberta, excerpt sixteen)

from The Kingdom, the Power, and the Glory: American Evangelicals in an Age of Extremism by Tim Alberta:

There is nothing to reclaim. This country—a drop in the bucket, like all the nations—was never God’s to begin with, because “God does not show favoritism,” as Peter said, “but accepts from every nation the one who fears him and does what is right.” Attempts to devise some divine conception of the United States often end up demonstrating exactly the opposite. Take, for example, an Independence Day 2023 tweet from Josh Hawley, the disgraced Missouri senator whose lies and deceptive parliamentary maneuverings helped set in motion the violence of January 6. Celebrating the holiday with a “quote” from Patrick Henry, the senator tweeted: “It cannot be emphasized too strongly or too often that this great nation was founded, not by religionists, but by Christians; not on religions, but on the Gospel of Jesus Christ.” It might have been humiliating enough for Hawley to learn that the found father never spoke or wrote those words; what should have been downright mortifying was to realize, as the historian Seth Cotlar documented, that these words actually originated in a notoriously antisemitic and white-nationalist publication, the Virginian, 150 years after Henry’s death.

Hawley never bothered to apologize for the error. And why would he? The way many of his constituents see it, secular progressives, in their quest to destroy America’s Christian heritage, stopped playing by the rules a long time ago. Fire must be fought with fire. Standards must be suspended. A winner-takes-all mentality must be embraced. When the conservative activist (and future Trump administration official), Michael Anton wrote his 2016 essay, “The Flight 93 Election,” he argued that leftists had hijacked America; the only chance for its survival was if conservatives rushed the cockpit, knowing full well that they might just crash the plane themselves. Notably absent from that essay was any reference to Christ, or to Christianity, or even to God. And yet the argument Anton makes—that imminent destruction justifies the unthinkable acts that may themselves lead to imminent destruction—has come to define the modern religious right.



Thursday, June 27, 2024

the last book I ever read (The Kingdom, the Power, and the Glory: American Evangelicals in an Age of Extremism by Tim Alberta, excerpt fifteen)

from The Kingdom, the Power, and the Glory: American Evangelicals in an Age of Extremism by Tim Alberta:

The pro-life movement has not won the public argument—and, arguably, it hasn’t really tried. The message of abortion as a moral evil, as an affront to the loving God who made humanity in His own image, has proven curiously ineffective. Why?

For one thing, that message seems wildly inconsistent with the politics otherwise practiced by those who claim the “pro-life” mantle. If one is driven to electoral advocacy by the conviction that mankind bears the image of God, why stop at opposing abortion? What about the shunning of refugees? What about the forced separation of babies from their mothers? What about the hollowing out of programs that feed hungry kids? What about the lifelong incarceration of nonviolent offenders and the wrongful execution of the innocent? What about the Darwinist health-care system that prices out sick people and denies treatment to poor people and produces the developed world’s highest maternal mortality rate? What about the fact that, in 2020, guns had become the number one cause of death for children in the United States? Surely even the most devoted anti-abortion advocate could spot the problem when Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the former Trump press secretary who was running for governor of Arkansas, declared, “We will make sure that when a kid is in the womb, they’re as safe as they are in a classroom.” Indeed, America set another new record for school shootings in 2022, and the evangelical movement was silent.

The other problem with the pro-life message: the messengers. Can we really expect Americans to take lessons on virtue from a president who brags about grabbing women by their vaginas? Can we really expect voters to entertain the argument of unborn lives having inherent dignity coming from a man who lies about having ended unborn life himself? Evangelicals can rationalize all this—going on about “binary decisions” and “the lesser of two evils” until they convince themselves it’s true—but the unwillingness to demand and enforce a higher standard has sapped their arguments of moral urgency.



Wednesday, June 26, 2024

the last book I ever read (The Kingdom, the Power, and the Glory: American Evangelicals in an Age of Extremism by Tim Alberta, excerpt fourteen)

from The Kingdom, the Power, and the Glory: American Evangelicals in an Age of Extremism by Tim Alberta:

‘We’ve always been marginalized. We’re marginalized today,” Reed said. “The challenge was, could we ever change it? And we did. I mean, it took forty or fifty years. But we’ve changed it.”

Changed what, exactly? The public’s perception of evangelical Christianity is worse than at any point in recorded history. Church attendance is steadily eroding and will nosedive as Baby Boomers die off in greater numbers. Meanwhile, the rhetoric around their supposed persecution—Reed told Stephen Strang, on his podcast in 2019, that it would be “open season” on Christians if Trump lost reelection—hasn’t been updated since the heyday of Jerry Falwell Sr. The only think that seems changed, I observed to Reed, is disposition. Whereas the evangelical movement once downplayed its alliances with those who might undermine its moral credibility, today it openly champions the likes of Donald Trump and Herschel Walker.

Reed set his jaw. “I believe as a theological matter that someone can find redemption in Christ and become a new person,” he replied. “And I believe that Herschel Walker is a new person.”

Maybe he was. I didn’t know the man’s heart. If the allegations against Walker were true, then it would be consistent with scripture for him, as a new person who found redemption in Christ, to take responsibility for his actions, to admit his deceptions, to ask for the forgiveness that accompanies being a new person, and to radiate the transformative mercy he had been shown. But Walker wasn’t doing any of that. Instead, he was asking for cheap grace. He was promoting a surface-level sanctification. He was using Christianity as a lowest common denominator—a way to gloss over the mistakes of his past, to explain his persecution at present, and to guarantee voters a political reward in the future.



Tuesday, June 25, 2024

the last book I ever read (The Kingdom, the Power, and the Glory: American Evangelicals in an Age of Extremism by Tim Alberta, excerpt thirteen)

from The Kingdom, the Power, and the Glory: American Evangelicals in an Age of Extremism by Tim Alberta:

Once upon a time, Reed might have been right in observing that Christianity was getting a raw deal from the culture. But not today. Just as with the unraveling of the Republican Party, the Church had been destabilized from within, its fringe infiltrating the mainstream in ways that warranted systemic criticism. There was a reason Christian views writ large were now summarily dismissed as “inherently intolerant and undemocratic.” For generations, white evangelicals had been overwhelmingly supportive of both immigrants and refugees entering the United States; by 2020 they were, far and away, the least likely of any religious subgroup to advocate for either one. And this was not some outlying development. In the year after Trump left office, polling repeatedly showed there was one demographic group most likely to believe that the election had been stolen, that vaccines were dangerous, that globalists were controlling the U.S. population, that liberal celebrities were feasting on the blood of infants, that resorting to violence might be necessary to save the country: white evangelicals.

None of this justified the sweeping censure of tens of millions of people. Having spent Trump’s presidency traveling the country, meeting religious voters in small towns and big cities alike, I knew how many serious, sane evangelicals were still out there. These people have no place in the left-wing fever dreams that inform cable news punditry and op-ed pages. They are reasonable and realistic, making prudential political judgments that often reflect something quite limited about their core values, their commitment to others, their complex set of religious convictions. They are dismayed by the hysteria and hyperbole that has captured their movement and want nothing more than to reclaim it. Their character deserves respect and the crackup of the evangelical Church is not their doing.



Monday, June 24, 2024

the last book I ever read (The Kingdom, the Power, and the Glory: American Evangelicals in an Age of Extremism by Tim Alberta, excerpt twelve)

from The Kingdom, the Power, and the Glory: American Evangelicals in an Age of Extremism by Tim Alberta:

A conspiracist luminary, Posobiec rose to fame on the far right in 2016 by championing #Pizzagate, the internet rumor that alleged Hillary Clinton and a cabal of top-ranking Democrats were running a child sex-trafficking ring from the basement of Comet Ping Pong, a trendy pizza joint in Washington, D.C. Posobiec was no casual participant in #Pizzagate; he personally visited the restaurant to investigate, surreptitiously livestreaming footage of what he later described on Alex Jones’s Infowars channel as “demonic artwork” and “a secret door” that seemed suspicious, given the presence of so many “little kids.” The video exploded on social media after being uploaded to YouTube. Two weeks later, a man drove to D.C. from North Carolina, walked into Comet Ping Pong, and opened fire with his AR-15 rifle. (The man told police that he’d come to save the children, only to realize the restaurant had no basement; thankfully, nobody was hurt.) Posobiec never apologized for his starring role in fomenting what law enforcement agencies declared to be a brazen, dangerous falsehood. Indeed, he was just getting started.



Sunday, June 23, 2024

the last book I ever read (The Kingdom, the Power, and the Glory: American Evangelicals in an Age of Extremism by Tim Alberta, excerpt eleven)

from The Kingdom, the Power, and the Glory: American Evangelicals in an Age of Extremism by Tim Alberta:

The narrative arc of the Bible tells of an aspirational evolution in mankind’s thinking, Volf said. What began in Exodus—the story of God’s chosen people escaping bondage and eventually coming into the covenant state of Israel—was finished by the arrival of Jesus, who taught His disciples to take His message to all the nations. The transformational effect of this cannot be overstated. Immediately, almost overnight, a people who had refused to associate with anyone outside their ethnic tribe began calling them brothers and sisters. “There is neither Jew nor Gentle, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus,” Paul wrote in his letter to the Galatians.

The Bible’s final book, Revelation, paints a utopic vision of Christ living among His followers in a New Jerusalem. This is the believer’s pluralistic destiny, a heavenly melting pot where descendants of every nation, ethnicity, and race are unified, forevermore, in the body of Christ. That vision can be difficult to see, Volf said, when professing Christians are engaged in a “twisting of the religious landscape” that rationalizes social antagonism, clannish nihilism, and even physical violence.

None of this is unprecedented. Religion and politics are natural enemies; both provide a sense of belonging and self-actualization to the masses. Tension between the two is healthy and necessary. When one appropriates the other, history shows that oppression—leading to death and human suffering at a woeful scale—is the inevitable result.



Saturday, June 22, 2024

the last book I ever read (The Kingdom, the Power, and the Glory: American Evangelicals in an Age of Extremism by Tim Alberta, excerpt ten)

from The Kingdom, the Power, and the Glory: American Evangelicals in an Age of Extremism by Tim Alberta:

Bolin didn’t seem burdened knowing that so many people were relying upon him to do the heavy lifting of discernment of their behalf. Many of the backwater websites and podcasts to which the pastor attributed his commentaries were the same ones cited to me by people from his church. FloodGate had become a circular food chain of misinformation. In a sense, Christians have always lived a different epistemological existence than nonbelievers. But this was something new. Something decidedly nonessential.

At one point, I showed Bolin a Facebook post he had written months earlier: “I’m still wondering how 154,000,000 votes were counted in a country where there are only 133,000,000 registered voters.” This was posted to his page, I told him, well after the U.S. Census Bureau had published data showing that more than 168 million Americans were registered to vote in 202. A quick Google search would have given Bolin the accurate numbers.

“Yeah, that’s one I regret,” he said, explaining that he subsequently learned that the numbers he’d posted were incorrect. (The post was still active. Bolin texted me the following day saying he’d deleted it.)



Friday, June 21, 2024

the last book I ever read (The Kingdom, the Power, and the Glory: American Evangelicals in an Age of Extremism by Tim Alberta, excerpt nine)

from The Kingdom, the Power, and the Glory: American Evangelicals in an Age of Extremism by Tim Alberta:

Schneider had come to speak and sing. There was such energy inside the tent that even some very serious-looking men—dressed in paramilitary gear, firearms strapped to their sides—bounced on their toes and clapped along. Between songs, Schneider offered a different catalog of greatest hits. He talked about the flu shot making people sick. He decried the Christian elites who look down on believers like him. He referred to Biden as “Brandon” and suggested that Christians should prepare to join a violent uprising.

“We are born for such a time as this. God is calling you to do something,” Schneider said. “We have a country to take back. And if that fails, we have a country—yes, I’ll say it—to take back.”

Not that one might expect theology from a guy whose claim to fame was portraying a bootlegger who named his Confederate-themed car “General Lee,” but this was a curious take on scripture. The notion that God was “calling” on Christians to “take back” their country—especially by force—is laughably incompatible with the teachings of Christ. It was Jesus who subverted the authorities with teachings of obedience and edicts of nonviolence; it was Jesus who mocked His captors for brandishing weapons as they arrested Him. “Am I leading a rebellion, that you have come out with swords and clubs to capture me?” He asked.



Thursday, June 20, 2024

the last book I ever read (The Kingdom, the Power, and the Glory: American Evangelicals in an Age of Extremism by Tim Alberta, excerpt eight)

from The Kingdom, the Power, and the Glory: American Evangelicals in an Age of Extremism by Tim Alberta:

These themes—of patriotism and divine commission, of nationalism and savage conquest—were ubiquitous in the hall. I saw one flag, black adorned with white revolvers, that read “God, Guns & Trump.” They were sold next to decorative license plates that showed soaring eagles and cocked pistols: “God, Guns & Guts Made America,” it read. “Let’s Keep All Three.”

One table over from where copies of The First American Bible were being sold (for a discounted price of $149.99), Road to Majority attendees crowded around a rack of T-shirts that carried slogans such as “Faith Over Fear” and “This Means War.” The top seller, offered in at least seven different colors, was “Let’s Go Brandon,” a bowdlerized euphemism that conservatives chant as a substitute for “Fuck Joe Biden.” The shirts even included a hashtag--#FJB—that jettisoned any plausible deniability.

When I asked Dave Klucken, the booth’s proprietor, what brought him all the way from Loganville, Georgia, to peddle these goods, he replied, “We’ve taken God out of America.”

Did he really think #FJB was an appropriate way to bring God back? Klucken shrugged. “People keep on asking for it,” he told me. “You’ve got to give the people what they want.”

As recently as five or six years earlier, even as the evangelical-political brand was becoming more disputatious, it would have been scandalous to see such vile and violent symbolism at an event associated with Christianity. But Ralph Reed didn’t really care. He was giving the people what they wanted. He was giving them Donald J. Trump.



Wednesday, June 19, 2024

the last book I ever read (The Kingdom, the Power, and the Glory: American Evangelicals in an Age of Extremism by Tim Alberta, excerpt seven)

from The Kingdom, the Power, and the Glory: American Evangelicals in an Age of Extremism by Tim Alberta:

After speaking the word evil, Bunker looked up from her Bible. Then she gazed upward.

“My God,” she said. “If the evil comes from us, what shall we do?”

Bunker’s message dovetailed with Dicken’s earlier theory about the world’s vanishing confidence in the Church. The public hasn’t turned against Christians because they act better than the rest of the world, she said. The public has turned against Christians because they act worse than the rest of the world. Bunker argued that much of this bad behavior can be traced back to the Christian victimhood complex, which causes some believers to lash out against enemies real and imagined. Such behavior defies the words of Peter, and the very instruction of Jesus, who famously stated: “You have heard that it was said, ’Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.”



Tuesday, June 18, 2024

the last book I ever read (The Kingdom, the Power, and the Glory: American Evangelicals in an Age of Extremism by Tim Alberta, excerpt six)

from The Kingdom, the Power, and the Glory: American Evangelicals in an Age of Extremism by Tim Alberta:

Might Jeffress at least entertain other explanations? Was there no truth to the idea that evangelicals had taken their eye off the ball? Could he not see how the fixation on this world had created a barrier to entry for those seeking knowledge about the next? Jeffress shook his head. Most of the work he does, he insisted, has nothing to do with societal skirmishes or upcoming elections or anything else found outside the Bible. He said the caricature of him doesn’t align with reality.

Glancing to my right, his left, I took note of the irony. The corner of Jeffress’s office was a shrine—his secretary used that specific word to describe it—to President Donald J. Trump. There was an eight-foot-tall poster memorializing the “Celebrate Freedom” concert in D.C. (the one where the choir sang “Make America Great Again”). There were boxes of Trump cuff links and a golden Trump commemorative coin. There were dozens—dozens—of framed photos of Jeffress and Trump: praying over him, talking with him, shaking hands with him, giving thumbs-up with him, walking alongside him, speaking in front of him, standing dutifully behind him. (There were also a few photos of Jeffress with Mike Pence, and one, seemingly misplaced, of him with right-wing pundit Ann Coulter.) In the sweep of my reporting on the former president and his many sycophants, I had never seen such a temple to Trumpism. Anything that carried the man’s distinctive Shapie signature was framed: news articles, White House proclamations, email correspondences, even printed-out tweets.



Monday, June 17, 2024

the last book I ever read (The Kingdom, the Power, and the Glory: American Evangelicals in an Age of Extremism by Tim Alberta, excerpt five)

from The Kingdom, the Power, and the Glory: American Evangelicals in an Age of Extremism by Tim Alberta:

The latter years of Falwell’s life had been forgettable. He still preached to a large congregation and reached a sizable audience with his TV and radio programs. Yet his influence was dwindling. Ever since he disbanded the Moral Majority in 1989—sensing, rightly, that he’d lost sight of his responsibilities as a pastor—Falwell had been eclipsed by a new generation of Christian culture warriors. He launched the “God Save America” campaign in 1996, and a new radio program, Listen America, in 1998, but neither one did much to move the needle. Republican leaders would still make the pilgrimage to Lynchburg, but it was proving more an obligatory photo op than a kissing of the ring. Falwell didn’t take well to the diminished role.

Clinging to relevance in increasingly transparent and pitiful fashion, Falwell had, by the turn of the century, reduced himself to a caricature, more a punch line than a provocateur. He reacted to actress Ellen DeGeneres’s coming out by calling her “Ellen Degenerate.” He ranted about Tinky Winky, an animated purple creature on the toddler-aged TV show Teletubbies who was supposedly homosexual despite a lack of reproductive organs. He predicted that the Antichrist would be arriving soon and added: ‘of course he’ll be Jewish.” He said the September 11, 2001, terror attacks that killed three thousand people were “probably deserved” because of how America had turned away from God, and blamed “the pagans, and the abortionists, and the feminists, and the gays and the lesbians”—as well as the ACLU—for inviting such devastation on the country.

Less visible, but every bit as problematic, was his mismanagement of Liberty University.



Sunday, June 16, 2024

the last book I ever read (The Kingdom, the Power, and the Glory: American Evangelicals in an Age of Extremism by Tim Alberta, excerpt four)

from The Kingdom, the Power, and the Glory: American Evangelicals in an Age of Extremism by Tim Alberta:

That the pro-life cause has become synonymous with Falwell, his Moral Majority, and its successor movements is evidence of careful storytelling and masterful salesmanship. But it does not stand up to factual scrutiny.

In the decades preceding the landmark Roe v. Wade decision that legalized abortion in 1973, abortion was considered a “Catholic issue.” In 1968, Christianity Today, the flagship evangelical publication founded by Graham, convened a symposium of some two dozen theologians who ultimately could not agree whether abortion is sinful. In 1971, the Southern Baptist Convention passed a resolution affirming the procedure under a generous range of circumstances. (W.A. Criswell, the SBC ex-president and legendary pastor of First Baptist Church in Dallas, one of America’s leading megachurches, approved: “I have always felt that it was only after a child was born and had a life separate from its mother that it became an individual person.”) In 1973, Barry Garrett, the D.C. bureau chief for Baptist Press, reacted to the Roe decision by writing that the Supreme Court had “advanced the cause of religious liberty, human equality and justice.”

Falwell was no stranger to opining on court rulings. Yet the first time he mentioned abortion from the pulpit was 1978—five years after the Roe decision. Ed Dobson (no relation to James), one of Falwell’s closest friends and an original dean at Lynchburg Baptist College, sat at his side during that fateful 1979 meeting with Weyrich. Years later, commenting on the notion that Roe v. Wade had ignited the religious right, Dobson said, “I sat in the non-smoke-filled back room with the Moral Majority, and I frankly do not remember abortion being mentioned as a reason why we ought to do something.”



Saturday, June 15, 2024

the last book I ever read (The Kingdom, the Power, and the Glory: American Evangelicals in an Age of Extremism by Tim Alberta, excerpt three)

from The Kingdom, the Power, and the Glory: American Evangelicals in an Age of Extremism by Tim Alberta:

Falwell was not flashy in the pulpit, nor was he especially eloquent. Substantively, his sermons emphasized what he called “the fundamentals of the faith”—the virgin birth, the resurrection of Christ, the inerrancy of scripture—and mostly avoided extrabiblical commentary. In keeping with the fundamentalist doctrine of his independent Baptist tradition, Falwell preached “separatism.” The idea that followers of Christ are distinct, set apart, called to a citizenship in heaven that takes precedence over earthly identities. He frowned upon civic activism and expressly denounced political entanglements. In 1965, at the climax of the civil rights movement, Falwell delivered a sermon scolding his colleague, Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., for sullying their profession. The goal of the Church, Falwell decreed, is “not reformation but transformation,” a fact that certain clergy would do well to recognize. “As a God-called preacher, I find that there is no time left after I give the proper time and attention to winning people to Christ,” Falwell said. “Preachers are not called to be politicians, but to be soul winners.”



Friday, June 14, 2024

the last book I ever read (The Kingdom, the Power, and the Glory: American Evangelicals in an Age of Extremism by Tim Alberta, excerpt two)

from The Kingdom, the Power, and the Glory: American Evangelicals in an Age of Extremism by Tim Alberta:

“The scary thing now,” Torres interjected, “is that the enemy is inside the Church.”

“Right. And they’ll say it’s because the stakes have gotten so high,” Sanders said. “That’s what you saw on January 6. That’s why, if you’re an evangelical, you think it was okay to club the cops or break the windows. And it wasn’t Nancy Pelosi they were after; it was Mike Pence. A fellow believer. This is the biggest change I’ve observed in the last few years. The enemies aren’t those outside of the Church; it’s people in your church who don’t think exactly the way you do.”

Just the other day, Sanders told us, a friend who pastors a large congregation in Cleveland called him to vent. A longtime member of the church had asked for a meeting and broken some difficult news. “I’m afraid we have to leave the church after all these decades,” the man said, “because you’re not interpreting the Bible in light of the Constitution.”



Thursday, June 13, 2024

the last book I ever read (The Kingdom, the Power, and the Glory: American Evangelicals in an Age of Extremism by Tim Alberta, excerpt one)

from The Kingdom, the Power, and the Glory: American Evangelicals in an Age of Extremism by Tim Alberta:

For much of American history, white Christians had all of those things. Given that reality—and given the miraculous nature of America’s defeat of Great Britain, its rise to superpower status. And its legacy of spreading freedom and democracy (and yes, Christianity) across the globe—it’s easy to see why so many evangelicals believe that our country is divinely blessed. The problem is, blessings often become indistinguishable from entitlements. Once we become convinced that God has blessed something, that something can become an object of jealousy, obsession—even worship.

“At its root, we’re talking about idolatry. America has become an idol to some of these people,” Winans said. “If you believe that God is in covenant with America, then you believe—and I’ve heard lots of people say this explicitly—that we’re a new Israel. You believe the sorts of promises made to Israel are applicable to this country; you view America as a covenant that needs to be protected. You have to fight for America as if salvation itself hangs in the balance. At that point, you understand yourself as an American first and most fundamentally. And that is a terrible misunderstanding of who we’re called to be.”

This can happen anywhere, Winans explained, but the conditions in American are especially ripe for national idolatry. “The freedoms in our Bill of Rights, we like to call them ‘God-given.’ Now, think about what that means in the context of gun control,” he said. “If someone’s trying to take away something God has given you, well, shoot, that’s pretty upsetting! But is there a God-given right to bear arms? Or is it a cultural right? If I went to the U.K., or most other places in the world, they would say it’s a cultural right. In America, many Christians believe it’s a God-given right. So, you can see how, even in that one small example, we start running into problems.”



Wednesday, June 12, 2024

the last book I ever read (The Hours: A Novel by Michael Cunningham, excerpt nine)

from The Hours: A Novel by Michael Cunningham:

Yes, Clarissa thinks, it’s time for the day to be over. We throw our parties; we abandon our families to live alone in Canada’s we struggle to write books that do not change the world, despite our gifts and our unstinting efforts, our most extravagant hopes. We live our lives, do whatever we do, and then we sleep—it’s as simple and ordinary as that. A few jump out of windows or drown themselves or take pills; more die by accident; and most of us, the vast majority, are slowly devoured by some disease or, if we’re very fortunate, by time itself. There’s just this for consolation: an hour here or there when our lives seem, against all odds and expectations, to burst open and give us everything we’ve ever imagined, though everyone but children (and perhaps even they) knows these hours will inevitably be followed by others, far darker and more difficult. Still, we cherish the city, the morning; we hope, more than anything, for more.



Tuesday, June 11, 2024

the last book I ever read (The Hours: A Novel by Michael Cunningham, excerpt eight)

from The Hours: A Novel by Michael Cunningham:

“I guess I’ll see you tonight,” Walter says.

“Mm-hm,” Sally answers. Who invited Walter?

“How is Richard,” Walter asks. He ducks his head awkwardly, reverently, pointing the bill of his cap down toward the cigarette butts and gray circles of chewing gum, the wadded wrapper which, Sally can’t help noticing, is from a Quarter Pounder. She’s never had a Quarter Pounder.

The light changes. They cross.



Monday, June 10, 2024

the last book I ever read (The Hours: A Novel by Michael Cunningham, excerpt seven)

from The Hours: A Novel by Michael Cunningham:

What Laura regrets, what she can hardly bear, is the cake. It embarrasses her, but she can’t deny it. It’s only sugar, flour, and eggs—part of a cake’s charm is its inevitable imperfections. She knows that; of course she does. Still she had hoped to create something finer, something more significant, than what she’s produced, even with its smooth surface and its centered message. She wants (she admits to herself) a dream of a cake manifested as an actual cake; a cake invested with an undeniable and profound sense of comfort, of bounty. She wants to have baked a cake that banishes sorrow, even if only for a little while. She wants to have produced something marvelous; something that would be marvelous even to those who do not love her.

She has failed. She wishes she didn’t mind. Something, she thinks, is wrong with her.



Saturday, June 8, 2024

the last book I ever read (The Hours: A Novel by Michael Cunningham, excerpt six)

from The Hours: A Novel by Michael Cunningham:

A key turns in the front door. “It’s Julia,” Clarissa says.

“Shit.”

“Don’t worry. She’s seen men cry.”

It’s her goddamn daughter. Louis straightens his shoulders, steps sideways from under Clarissa’s arm. He continues looking out at the garden, trying to bring his face under control. He thinks about moss. He thinks about fountains. He is suddenly, genuinely interested in moss and fountains.



Friday, June 7, 2024

the last book I ever read (The Hours: A Novel by Michael Cunningham, excerpt five)

from The Hours: A Novel by Michael Cunningham:

“I will have lunch,” she says, impatiently but without true anger. She stands tall, haggard, marvelous in her housecoat, the coffee steaming in her hand. He is still, at times, astonished by her. She may be the most intelligent woman in England, he thinks. Her book may be read for centuries. He believes this more ardently than does anyone else. And she is his wife. She is Virginia Stephen, pale and tall, startling as a Rembrandt or a Velazquez, appearing twenty years ago at her brother’s room in Cambridge in a white dress, and she is Virginia Woolf, standing before him right now. She has aged dramatically, just this year, as if a layer of air has leaked out from under her skin. She’s grown craggy and worn. She’s begun to look as if she’s carved from very porous, gray-white marble. She is still regal, still exquisitely formed, still possessed of her formidable lunar radiance, but she is suddenly no longer beautiful.



Thursday, June 6, 2024

the last book I ever read (The Hours: A Novel by Michael Cunningham, excerpt four)

from The Hours: A Novel by Michael Cunningham:

Barbara offers a blank expression that Clarissa understands is meant as a smile. Barbara is forty or so, a pale, ample woman who came to New York to sing opera. Something about her face—the square jaw or the stern, inexpressive eyes—reminds you that people looked essentially the same a hundred years ago.



Wednesday, June 5, 2024

the last book I ever read (The Hours: A Novel by Michael Cunningham, excerpt three)

from The Hours: A Novel by Michael Cunningham:

Clarissa crosses Houston Street and thinks she might pick up a little something for Evan, to acknowledge his tentatively returning health. Not flowers; if flowers are subtly wrong for the deceased they’re disastrous for the ill. But what? The shops of SoHo are full of party dresses and jewelry and Biedermeier; nothing to take to an imperious, clever young man who might or might not, with the help of a battery of drugs, lives out his normal span. What does anyone want? Clarissa passes a shop and thinks of buying a dress for Julia, she’d look stunning in that little black one with the Anna Magnani straps, but Julia doesn’t wear dresses, she insists on spending her youth, the brief period in which one can wear anything at all, stomping around in men’s undershirts and leather lace-ups the size of cinder blocks. (Why does her daughter tell her so little? What happened to the ring Clarissa gave her for her eighteenth birthday?) Here’s that good little bookstore on Spring Street. Maybe Evan would like a book. Displayed in the window is one (only one!) of Clarissa’s, the English one (criminal, how she’d had to battle for a printing of ten thousand copies and, worse, how it looks as if they’ll be lucky to sell five), alongside the South American family saga she lost to a bigger house, which will clearly fail to earn out because, for mysterious reasons, it is respected but not loved. There is the new biography of Robert Mapplethorpe, the poems of Louise Gl├╝ck, but nothing seems right. They are all, at once, too general and too specific. You want to give him the book of his own life, the book that will locate him, parent him, arm him for the changes. You can’t show up with celebrity gossip, can you? You can’t bring the story of an embittered English novelist or the fates of seven sisters in Chile, however beautifully written, and Evan is about as likely to read poetry as he is to take up painting on china plates.



Tuesday, June 4, 2024

the last book I ever read (The Hours: A Novel by Michael Cunningham, excerpt two)

from The Hours: A Novel by Michael Cunningham:

Clarissa’s shoes make their soft sandpaper sounds as she descends the stairs on her way to buy flowers. Why doesn’t she feel more somber about Richard’s perversely simultaneous good fortune (“an anguished, prophetic voice in American letters”) and his decline (“You have no T-cells at all, none that we can detect”)? What is wrong with her? She loves Richard, she thinks of him constantly, but she perhaps loves the day slightly more. She loves West Tenth Street on an ordinary summer morning. She feels like a sluttish widow, freshly peroxided under her black veil, with her eye on the eligible men at her husband’s wake. Of the three of them—Louis, Richard, and Clarissa—Clarissa has always been the most hard-hearted, and the one most prone to romance. She’s endured teasing on the subject for more than thirty years; she decided long ago to give in and enjoy her own voluptuous, undisciplined responses, which, as Richard put it, tend to be as unkind and adoring as those of a particularly irritating, precocious child. She knows that a poet like Richard would move sternly through the same morning, editing it, dismissing incidental beauty, seeking the economic and historical truth behind these old brick town houses, the austere stone complications of the Episcopal church and the thin middle-aged man walking his Jack Russell terrier (they are suddenly ubiquitous along Fifth Avenue, these feisty, bowlegged little dogs), while she, Clarissa, simply enjoys without reason the houses, the church, the man, and the dog. It’s childish, she knows. It lacks edge. If she were to express it publicly (now, at her age), this love of hers would consign her to the realm of the duped and the simpleminded, Christians with acoustic guitars or wives who’ve agreed to be harmless in exchange for their keep. Still, this indiscriminate love feels entirely serious to her, as if everything in the world is part of a vast, inscrutable intention and everything in the world has its own secret name, a name that cannot be conveyed in language but is simply the sight and feel of the thing itself. This determined, abiding fascination is what she thinks of as her soul (an embarrassing, sentimental word, but what else to call it?); the part that might be conceivably survive the death of the body. Clarissa never speaks to anyone about any of that. She doesn’t gush or chirp. She exclaims only over the obvious manifestations of beauty, and even then managed a certain aspect of adult restraint. Beauty is a whore, she sometimes says. I like money better.



Monday, June 3, 2024

the last book I ever read (The Hours: A Novel by Michael Cunningham, excerpt one)

from The Hours: A Novel by Michael Cunningham:

She hurries from the house, wearing a coat too heavy for the weather. It is 1941. Another war has begun. She has left a note for Leonard, and another for Vanessa. She walks purposefully toward the river, certain of what she’ll do, but even now she is almost distracted by the sight of the downs, the church, and a scattering of sheep, incandescent, tinged with a faint hint of sulfur, grazing under a darkening sky. She pauses, watching the sheep and the sky, then walks on. The voices murmur behind her; bombers drone in the sky, though she looks for the planes and can’t see them. She walks past one of the farm workers (is his name John?), a robust, small-headed man wearing a potato-colored vest, cleaning the ditch that runs through the osier bed. He looks up at her, nods, looks down again into the brown water. As she passes him on her way to the river she thinks of how successful he is, how fortunate, to be cleaning a ditch in an osier bed. She herself has failed. She is not a writer at all, really; she is merely a gifted eccentric. Patches of sky shine in puddles left over from last night’s rain. Her shoes sink slightly into the soft earth. She has failed, and now the voices are back, muttering indistinctly just beyond the range of her vision, behind her, here, no, turn and they’ve gone somewhere else. The voices are back and the headache is approaching as surely as rain, the headache that will crush whatever is she and replace her with itself. The headache is approaching and it seems (is she or is she not conjuring them herself?) that the bombers have appeared again in the sky. She reaches the embankment, climbs over and down to the river. There’s a fisherman upriver, far and away, he won’t notice her, will he? She begins searching for a stone. She works quickly but methodically, as if she were following a recipe that must be obeyed scrupulously if it’s to succeed at all. She selects one roughly the size and shape of a pig’s skull. Even as she lifts it and forces it into one of the pockets of her coat (the fur collar tickles her neck), she can’t help noticing the stone’s cold chalkiness and its color, a milky brown with spots of green. She stands close to the edge of the river, which laps against the bank, filling the small irregularities in the mud with clear water that might be a different substance altogether from the yellow-brown, dappled stuff, solid-looking as a road, that extends so steadily from bank to bank. She steps forward. She does not remove her shoes. The water is cold, but no unbearably so. She pauses, standing in cold water up to her knees. She thinks of Leonard. She thinks of his hands and his beard, the deep lines around his mouth. She thinks of Vanessa, of the children, of Vita and Ethel: So many. They have all failed, haven’t they? She is suddenly, immensely sorry for them. She imagines turning around, taking the stone out of her pocket, going back to the house. She could probably return in time to destroy the notes. She could live on; she could perform that final kindness. Standing knee-deep in the moving water, she decides against it. The voices are here, the headache is coming, and if she restores herself to the care of Leonard and Vanessa they won’t let her go again, will they? She decides to insist that they let her go. She wades awkwardly (the bottom is mucky) out until she is up to her waist. She glances upriver at the fisherman, who is wearing a red jacket and who does not see her. The yellow surface of the river (more yellow than brown when seen this close) murkily reflects the sky. Here, then, is the last moment of true perception, a man fishing in a red jacket and a cloudy sky reflected on opaque water. Almost involuntarily (it feels involuntary, to her) she steps or stumbles forward, and the stone pulls her in. For a moment, still, it seems like nothing; it seems like another failure; just chill water she can easily swim back out of; but then the current wraps itself around her and takes her with such sudden, muscular force it feels as if a strong man has risen from the bottom, grabbed her legs and held them to her chest. It feels personal.



Thursday, May 30, 2024

Wednesday, May 29, 2024

the last book I ever read (Asleep in the Sun (New York Review Books Classics) by Adolfo Bioy Casares, excerpt six)

from Asleep in the Sun by Adolfo Bioy Casares:

We were so busy with the simple events of everyday life—rather, with the happiness of being together—that I swear I completely forgot about the seventeenth, which is our anniversary. After dinner one night, goodness knows how, I remembered the date and right then and there I got up the courage to confess my neglect. Courage, every once in a while, receives its rewards. You’ll never guess what Diana said.

“I forgot it too. If people love each other all days are equal.”

“Equally important,” I said, articulating slowly and contentedly.



Tuesday, May 28, 2024

the last book I ever read (Asleep in the Sun (New York Review Books Classics) by Adolfo Bioy Casares, excerpt five)

from Asleep in the Sun by Adolfo Bioy Casares:

“What do you love most about Elvira?”

Even his double chin blushed bright red. After a while he said something which filled me with amazement.

“Maybe one loves the image he has.”

“I don’t follow you,” I admitted.

“I’m lucky in that Elvira never contradicts that image.”

“Good. If I love Diana physically, perhaps I’m not so wrong. Perhaps Diana is no less her physical self than Elvira the image you have of her. One doesn’t have to dig so deep.”

Aldini answered, very matter-of-fact, “You’re too intelligent for me.”

I don’t think I’m more intelligent than other people, but I’ve thought a lot about certain subjects.



Saturday, May 25, 2024

the last book I ever read (Asleep in the Sun (New York Review Books Classics) by Adolfo Bioy Casares, excerpt four)

from Asleep in the Sun by Adolfo Bioy Casares:

One thing seemed obvious: in my troubles I would do well not to ask for understanding from the women around me. Ceferina took on a smug air as if to say, “Didn’t I tell you so?” I would like to know what the old woman was blaming me for. I didn’t marry my sister-in-law, I married the missus. You’ll say, “It’s a well-known fact, a man thinks he’s marrying a woman and he’s marrying a whole family.” Let me make it clear that, if necessary, I’d marry Diana all over again, even if I had to carry Adriana Maria, Don Martin, and Martincito on piggyback. It’s true that in those days I was really sorry that my sister-in-law looked so much like the missus. I was always confusing one with the other, which kept startling me by making me feel that I had Diana back. I’d say to myself, I’m going to do my best to make sure she doesn’t fool me again. Believe me, in my situation, it’s not good to have a similar person in the house, because it always reminds you of the real one’s absence.



Friday, May 24, 2024

the last book I ever read (Asleep in the Sun (New York Review Books Classics) by Adolfo Bioy Casares, excerpt three)

from Asleep in the Sun by Adolfo Bioy Casares:

The dog school occupies the spacious but bumpy lot which, when we were kids, had been the place of Galache’s orchard and chicken yard. The building, as the German calls it, is the old lodge, only now it’s older, with its dried-up wood—since Galache’s times it hadn’t been given what you call a paint job—and with rotten, unnailed boards here and there. I was always amazed that the orchard produced such fragrant peaches, because the whole place was covered with the smell of chickens. Now, it smells of dogs.

I don’t know why I became so suspicious as I got close to it. You’ll say, “You’re afraid of dogs.” Believe me, that’s not it. It was a fantasy: I imagined that by entering without warning I would discover a secret that would bring me sorrow. I thought, Things should be open and aboveboard. I’m telling you this detail because it shows how my mind was working; before knowing a thing, as if I had forebodings of the trials they’d put me through, I was flying a bit off the handle. I thought, Things should be open and aboveboard, and I started calling out. After a while the professor came out. He didn’t seem happy about my visit.



Thursday, May 23, 2024

the last book I ever read (Asleep in the Sun (New York Review Books Classics) by Adolfo Bioy Casares, excerpt two)

from Asleep in the Sun by Adolfo Bioy Casares:

That night of my birthday, Professor Standle, talking about dogs, cornered everybody’s attention. It was remarkable how those present became interested not only in dog training, but in the school’s organization. I am the first—if the professor is not lying—to recognize the school’s results, and I won’t deny that for the space of one or two minutes those animal stories bewitched me. While others spoke of the advantages and disadvantages of the training collar, I let myself be carried away by pure fantasy and in my heart of hearts I wondered if those who denied that dogs had souls were in the right. As the professor says, between their intelligence and ours there is only a difference of degree, but I’m not sure that difference always exists. Some pupils of the school develop—if I can rely on the German’s accounts—just like honest-to-God human beings.



Wednesday, May 22, 2024

the last book I ever read (Asleep in the Sun (New York Review Books Classics) by Adolfo Bioy Casares, excerpt one)

from Asleep in the Sun by Adolfo Bioy Casares:

I know that some people said I wasn’t lucky in marriage. Outsiders would do better not to talk about private affairs, because they’re generally wrong. But who would dare tell the neighbors and the family: you are outsiders.



Sunday, May 19, 2024

the last book I ever read (A Hall of Mirrors by Robert Stone, excerpt fourteen)

from A Hall of Mirrors by Robert Stone:

Rheinhardt, after unsteadily introducing several of the speakers and retiring to the gunfighter’s labyrinth for a last marijuana cigarette, had conceived a passion for the greenness of the grass.

“Farley,” he kept saying, “look at that grass!”