Wednesday, November 23, 2011
newyorker:

Junot Diaz: “Eventually everything I have gets read. But naturally I buy  more than I can read, so there is always at least a hundred-book margin  between what I own and what I’ve read. What’s cool is that I’ve caught  up a couple of times, and this year I intend to catch up again. But then  I’ll buy too much and the race starts again.”
- What do our libraries say about us? It’s a question the Book Bench has explored in detail in the past. The answer we came up with is: A lot.

Leah Price’s new volume, “Unpacking My Library: Writers and Their Books,” presents photographs of the libraries of thirteen   authors—including Wood and his wife, Claire Messud—alongside interviews  about their collections, their most prized titles, and their reading  habits. Click through for more images and text from Price’s new book: http://nyr.kr/tI4OBx

newyorker:

Junot Diaz: “Eventually everything I have gets read. But naturally I buy more than I can read, so there is always at least a hundred-book margin between what I own and what I’ve read. What’s cool is that I’ve caught up a couple of times, and this year I intend to catch up again. But then I’ll buy too much and the race starts again.”

- What do our libraries say about us? It’s a question the Book Bench has explored in detail in the past. The answer we came up with is: A lot.
Leah Price’s new volume, “Unpacking My Library: Writers and Their Books,” presents photographs of the libraries of thirteen authors—including Wood and his wife, Claire Messud—alongside interviews about their collections, their most prized titles, and their reading habits. Click through for more images and text from Price’s new book: http://nyr.kr/tI4OBx
Tuesday, November 16, 2010

President Bush was right

When Media decides to go slumming, never let it be said that it doesn’t devour every last slice of the pig. On November 10, President Bush’s memoir Decision Points was unleashed. Journalists at every newspaper and magazine were nothing short of craven, ravenously tearing the beast limb from limb, licking their grubby fingers clean after gorging themselves on even the more acquired cuts of the hog.

Much has been made of the functional quality of the President’s prose, for a start. “The narrative flow dries up completely when he gets to the biggest economic events of our time,” Rafael Behr wrote in The Observer, “The dialogue reads like a lazy TV script.” The Washington Post called it “competent, readable and flat.” So much copy needn’t have been wasted writing this simple sentiment in a myriad of ways: this should have been expected of a man who was perhaps the least read figure to occupy the Oval Office.

The passages everybody wanted to see, and the ones reviewers have poured over, were on the subject of Iraq. He admits a number of misgivings on the matter. The President regrets that “we did not respond more quickly or aggressively when the security situation started to deteriorate after Saddam’s regime fell,” that “cutting troop levels too quickly was the most important failure of execution in the war,” and that he has “a sickening feeling every time” he thinks about the failure to find the weapons.

Nevertheless, President Bush resolutely defends the argument for the war, concluding that “the world was undoubtedly safer with Saddam gone,” adding “for all the difficulties that followed, America is safer without a homicidal dictator pursuing WMD and supporting terror at the heart of the Middle East.”

Make no mistake: George W. Bush was the worst President of the United States since Herbert Hoover. A fog of incompetency and corruption enveloped the White House in a manner not seen since Iran-Contra and President Reagan’s slip in senility. His penchant for misspeak was a cause of tremendous embarrassment to a nation as great as the United States of America, and his reckless diplomatic agenda did almost irreparable damage to the country’s international standing.

On Iraq however, he is right. As I have written prior, at its core the decision to liberate Iraq was just. Iraqis are freer now than they have been since the state’s creation in the aftermath of First World War. After governance by sultan, king and dictator, the Iraqi people now possess the right to vote and to free expression and assembly. They have access to free markets and a free press. They have a right to a normal existence.

Just examine the fervent debate that has arisen internally since Tariq Aziz, Saddam’s Hussein deputy and Western face, was sentenced to death for playing his part in a totalitarian regime. Christopher Hitchens describes a scene where “citizens’ groups are approaching the courts; radio and TV networks are disputing the issues and the outcome; and millions of Iraqis are joining the argument by way of mobile phones and the Internet.” Such a prospect would have been unthinkable, in the days when Saddam was the way, the truth and the life for every Iraqi.

American forces are currently involved in the training of the Iraqi national army, but their money is purchasing both guns and butter. For instance, a pot of gold from the U.S. Army Commander’s Emergency Relief Fund is being used to renovate (or rather, given its condition, recreate) the municipal library in the northern city of Kirkuk. The oil town rests in a region with a 70pc rate of illiteracy, yet on account of American generosity there are women in the city picking up a book for the first time, as lessons begin for those who were forced out of education when the country was ruled by the al-Tikriti clan.

Perhaps the greatest success story however is the Kurdish Autonomous Region. In the late 1980s, the Kurdish people were subjected to a systemised campaign of genocide, al-Anfal, in which up to 100,000 civilians were slaughtered, via mass executions and concentrations camps. Moreover, some 4,000 villages were strafed with chemical and biological weapons in a campaign of Arabisation.

After the Gulf War, Iraqi Kurdistan was placed under the security umbrella of coalition forces, and the region began its recovery. Now, since the liberation of Iraq, a lotus flower grows in the mud. Economically, per capita income is 25pc higher in Kurdistan than in the rest of the country, and as a result 20,000 workers have moved there since 2003. The Regional Government has remained stable, and has reconstructed 65pc of the villages destroyed during al-Anfal. Furthermore, they have invested in infrastructure projects such as air transportation, as tourism begins to develop in this relative safe haven where no foreign visitor has been kidnapped since the liberation.

Indeed there were failures, and when the official narrative of the liberation comes to be written they will prove inescapable. Moreover, democracy in Iraq is far from secure outside of Kurdistan; once coalition forces leave it may not survive. But above it all, it stands to reason and evidence that the liberation of Iraq was the right thing to do, for the people of Iraq and for the world.

You can tell about a person’s moral compass from their position on the war: those who continue to argue against it, and particularly those who state that in fact life under Saddam was satisfactory and preferable to how Iraqis live now, clearly have something of the night about them, and must be treated with a great deal of suspicion.

So, on this matter, and this matter alone, those in the press still rolling about the gutter, faces smeared with bacon grease, are duty-bound to give President Bush his dues for making such a brave and righteous decision. He sacrificed his administration, his reputation and his place in history, all for the greater and enduring cause of freedom.