Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Ross Douthat...if only I could come up with a clever pun regarding his name vis-a-vis this article!

Maybe something incorporating feminine hygiene products and head apparel? Here is the article, where he niggles and nitpicks a small point in a Bill James article which attempts to argue that America's priority on athletic development has potentially hindered its literary development

I'm going to get right to the point, because I'm hungover as all shit: America is like 100x the size of London of Shakespeare's time and has produced untold hundreds of superstar athletes. It was produced over the past 50 years, very few writers who would be called literary geniuses (Roth, Delillo, McCarthy, Wallace, whatever).

No matter how you nitpick about Andy Sonnastine coming from BFE, America, you still are a douchehat (I finally came up with one!) who has completely missed the point and exposed yourself as a mouthbreather of the reading comprehension set.


SOB in CA said...

Meh. James was reaching. In Elizabethian times, those great writers were paid by the government to write entertainment. I like our slightly freer market system better. We get what we (aggregate, and not just Bill James) want.

dan-bob said...

Was it I.A. Richards who argued that Shakespeare was the product of the unique socioeconomic strata in Elizabethan England?

Or was that Charlie, the drunk in the chip shop?

Chris W said...

sob, I don't deny that james was reaching, but if you read what you wrote, you basically are making the Exact same argument James did: ie, that the only reason we don't have more great writers is because our socio-economic system emphasizes athletes (and lawyers and bankers and execs) and theirs emphasized playwrights and actors

SOB in CA said...

My addition is that we'd rather have them, AND that James is the outlier for wanting something different.
When he becomes King William of James, he can force his view on the free market. And he'll end up with his head on a pike for it.

Chris W said...

James DOESN'T want something different. He never said at any point in his article that he wants something different. Why would someone who devoted his whole life to writing and studying baseball claim he'd rather have playwrights than star athletes? Clearly he's just fine with the way things are, and in fact is probably pretty happy he gets to see the George Brett's and Adrian Gonzalez's of the world play ball rather than see a bunch of Sir Francis Bacon clones.

I take it you haven't actually read James's article. I wish I could link it, but it's behind a paywall on his site and in stores. What it boils down to is he's just explaining WHY we don't have anymore Shakespeare's and claiming that it's not because we're not as smart as Elizabethans. I'm not 100% certain that he's not overreaching, but the point is both you and Douthit clearly misunderstand his basic premise completely. The only difference is Douthit actually read his original article.

Chris W said...

I think it's fair use to quote this passage of his actual essay which is essentially his thesis. I'll bold for emphasis:

"There are two theories that present themselves. One is that the talent that assembled in Shakespeare’s London was a random cluster, an act of God to locate in this one place and time a very unusual pile of literary talent. The other theory is that there is talent everywhere; it is merely that some societies are good at developing it, and other societies not so good.
You may choose which side of this argument you wish to squat upon, but I am on the (b) side; it is my very strong belief that there is talent everywhere and all the time, but that London at that time was very, very good at calling out the literary talent of its citizenry, whereas most places and most times are not nearly so effective along this line.

I believe that there is a Shakespeare in Topeka, Kansas, today, that there is a Ben Jonson, that there is a Marlowe and there is a Bacon, most likely, but that we are unlikely ever to know who these people are because our society does not encourage excellence in literature. That’s my opinion.

THIS OBSERVATION IS NOWHERE NEAR AS GLOOMY AS IT SEEMS. OUR SOCIETY IS VERY, VERY GOOD AT DEVELOPING CERTAIN TYPES OF SKILLS AND CERTAIN TYPES OF GENIUS. We are fantastically good at identifying and developing athletic skills—better than we are, really, at almost anything else."

Perhaps my use of the word "hindered" carried too many negative connotations that I may have unintentionally misrepresented James's position (although I believe at its core the word is correct). If that's the case, :shrug:

SOB in CA said...

I haven't read the original article. Especially if I have to pay for it.
OK, I did read the Slate article.

I agree with him. And, thus, your lambasting of the nitpickers, and of me.

Carry on. Nothing to see here!!

SOB in CA said...

The only thing I disagree with Bill James on is his belief that there is a Shakespeare-level writer in today's Topeka.

Chris W said... I said, he's overreaching. If you think about it, the population of London vis-a-vis the world circa 1550-1620 was much greater than Topeka vis-a-vis the world in 2010, and since the people who have supplemented the population increase are probably below or at median intelligence it stands to reason that Topeka shouldn't be expected to have another Shakespeare.

With that said, AMERICA should be, and doesn't. Which is why he's write in theory but not in practice.

Chris W said...