I tend to try and have a rotating selection of reading material on the regular. If one book gets boring, I have the other book to fall back on. This allows me to do two things. One, it lets me engage deeper in subjects that I find interesting. Two, it lets me build my library up so that I can show off. What I’ve been reading.
The Informers by Bret Easton Ellis. I don’t like Bret Easton Ellis as a person. I don’t like his books, either. Yeah, yeah, yeah. Blah, blah, blah. He’s written so many classics and this and that and, “Jarvis, how can you say you don’t like someone if you’ve never met them?” I mean, it’s really easy. Have you read one of his books? I read Less Than Zero and I felt, in my heart, that it was a good book. It was also a book about him, what he did and how it affected him. The Informers feels the same. It feels like his life told by him given to me. Now, yes, it’s fiction. We can have a long, lengthy debate about how one can fictionalize their life and blah, blah, blah. My point is, I don’t like the world he gives me. The people in The Informers are too rich, too pre-occupied with themselves, too strung out on drugs and don’t really take life seriously. I don’t want to be around people like that, real or fictional. And, yes, my interpretation of the book and the subject matter could be wrong, but since I didn’t go to a damn book club to talk about my interpretation, my interpretation is all I have and I interpret that Bret Easton Ellis sucks.
His books have cool covers, though.
The Other America by Michael Harrington. I heard about this book when I read an article about poverty. It has some striking statistics and you should spend some time looking at them. The Other America was published in 1962 but it is amazing how the book is both dated and contemporary. He calls Black people “Negroes,” but I don’t really mind that (I secretly like the term. Weird, right?) And Michael Harrington spends a large amount of time describing who the poor are and where they live and how they live. He also talks about why some Americans are poor and why the richer Americans don’t really care. Here’s and excerpt.
Poverty is often off the beaten track. It always has been. The ordinary tourist never left the main highway, and today he rides interstate turnpikes. He does not go into the valleys of Pennsylvania where the towns look like movie sets of Wales in the thirties. He does not see the company houses in rows, the rutted roads (the poor always have bad roads whether they live in the city, in towns, or on farms), and everything is black and dirty. And even if he were to pass through such a place by accident, the tourist would not meet the unemployed men in the bar or the women coming home from a runaway sweatshop.
The book is depressing, as it should be. It’s depressing because this book was written fifty years ago and we still have the exact same problems he describes. People say that we are “progressing” as a society. I don’t see it.
Twilight of the Elites by Chris Hayes. Chris Hayes is a cool dude. You see him on television and you listen to him in podcasts and you think, man, this cat is young and hip and intelligent. He says stuff and I dig it. So, you would think his book has those same qualities. And the book does, somewhat. The premise of the book is hard to understand, so the entire book is hard to read through. Basically, Chris Hayes posits that the Meritocracy, the Elites that run our society, the smart people, have been corrupted by their success. This explains why, for the last ten years, we’ve had a society that feels utterly corrupted. The wars. The steroid usage in sports. The abuse of young children by the Church and by academic institutions, the financial crisis. It is all tied to the horrible corruption at the top that effects all of us. Here’s a quote.
This imbalance is more than simply economic: it is embedded in the current machinery of American justice. America incarcerates a larger percentage of its citizens than any other nation on earth (including China). With less than 5 percent of the world’s population, we account for nearly 25 percent of the world’s prison population. Yet the same might prosecutorial apparatus that churns through so many Americans has almost entirely spared the ranks of bank managers who oversaw the very institutions that nearly brought the whole system down.
The idea of Meritocratic failure is a new one. But it makes sense, and it puts some things in perspective. What makes the book a bit odd, for me, is the fact that my job is to pull people up into the Elite. I teach people stuff with the exact goal of making their lives better. If the system I promote is as broken as Chris Hayes says, then why do I do what I do? Am I promoting the system because I believe in it? Because I was brought up by it? And is the “system” corrupt in the first place? A good book makes you think and Chris Hayes’ book is pretty good.