Book Notes: Donna Tartt’s The Secret History 

I’m having a very weird reading year, folks. Everything I read, in every genre and every language, turns out to be crap. Aside from Tayeb Salih’s wonderful novel, everything else has been quite bizarre. 

I never read Donna Tartt before, and sheesh, what a weird, weird novel. It’s like fantasy but without any magic. Completely implausible characters in utterly implausible situations doing and saying ridiculously implausible things. It isn’t hard to keep up the suspense when everybody is so completely implausible. 

Another problem with the novel is that characters are always drunk. Every page of the 560-page novel reminds the readers that everybody is drunk. I haven’t encountered so many drunk characters since I stopped watching Russian police procedurals. I felt by the end of it that I would never be able to look at an alcoholic beverage without intense boredom after reading this novel. 

There are positive sides to the novel, though. For one, it’s long. I bought another novel by Tartt, and it’s a cool 1,000 pages. This beautiful length is enough to excuse many things in my eyes. Also, The Secret History is very escapist and requires zero intellectual investment from the readers. It’s the perfect beach read. I’m not on the beach but I’m planning a beach vacation, so a beach novel makes sense. 

1st Birthday 

Tomorrow is Klara’s first birthday party! Fifteen adults and 8 kids are coming over. Of course, there’s no chance I could cook for such a crowd. I came up with a brilliant idea instead: I ordered a bunch of Indian food in buffet trays at the restaurant. Everybody will be happy because they all love this food. Kids are getting all sorts of kid snacks.

It’s summer here, and everybody will get to spend a lot of time outside. There will be games for kids and marshmallow roasting. I always thought American marshmallows were garbage but it turned out they are not to be eaten raw. When you roast them, they become amazing. Our marshmallows are sold ready-to-eat, so I never thought one needed to cook them. 

The “Hillary’s Emails” Stategy

If the post on climate is not very clear, let me make it clearer. Remember Hillary’s emails? That’s how propaganda wars are won. Find a short, easy to remember phrase and repeat it millions of times. People like things they can recognize. If they recognize something, it must be true. Once your phrase becomes a slogan that everybody recognizes and that dominates the airwaves, you win. It doesn’t matter how empty of content the slogan is. It’s got to be simple. Hillary’s emails. Full stop. Nothing else. 

The second you make it a tiny bit complicated, you lose their attention and they’ve moved on to another round of Hillary’s emails. 

Stay Put

The update we received from our International Students Office:

International students should not travel outside of the U.S. at this time because of the quickly changing outcomes of these legal challenges, as well as the uncertainty of obtaining or renewing visas to enter the U.S.

Of course, many international students – especially the ones with passports from unprestigious places – never left the US throughout their course of study even before this. N was too terrified to go even just to Canada during his PhD. Who knows what whim will overcome the customs officer at the border.

I traveled freely with my Canadian passport, yet the customs officers were often unpleasant and sometimes downright aggressive. One, for instance, tore my student visa into shreds and threw it in the garbage. Just because.

A smart international student who does mind not being able to come back does stay put. People keep acting surprised that customs officers are mistreating travelers. This is only surprising for those who haven’t crossed the border with a non-US passport dozens of times like I did. The shit I’ve seen, you don’t want to know. And I’m white, female and pretty. People who don’t look like me have it much worse.

Climate Freaks 

The climate debate seems to have nobody but freaks participate. Example:

The Summary of Policymakers in IPCC’s AR5 Working Group I said “It is extremely likely (95 – 100% certain) that human activities caused more than half of the observed increase in global mean surface temperature from 1951 to 2010.” More relevant to attempts to control CO2 emissions, chapter 10 said “more than half of the observed increase in GMST {global mean surface temperature} from 1951 to 2010 is very likely due to the observed anthropogenic increase in GHG {greenhouse gas} concentrations.”

This obsession with who caused it is nothing short of deranged. As if the corals won’t die and glaciers won’t melt as soon as you decide who or what’s to blame. 

The house is on fire, and they stand there doing nothing except engage in a vapid discussion as to who started it.