Book Notes: Donna Tartt’s The Goldfinch

The really sad thing about Tartt is that she can write. There are some very strong pages in this endless novel. She writes in a poignant and sincere way about the hopelessness of the post-bubble landscapes. She could write valuable stuff about the suffering of the economic downturn. 

But there is a problem that keeps tripping Tartt up and preventing her from developing into a passable author. She is obsessed with writing in a voice of a young man who is an alcoholic and / or a drug addict and who goes on for hundreds of extremely repetitive pages, narrating how he gets drunk and high. 

Tartt’s fixation on describing alcoholic stupor in interminable detail betrays some sort of a personal issue with booze and drugs that the writer unleashes onto her readers instead of onto a therapist. Readers end up paying to witness the spectacle of a traumatized writer obsessively baring her trauma in a way that is unlikely to bring her any true relief. Tartt has made a lucrative career out of her dysfunction, which tells us a lot about the readers who feed her popularity. 

I’m not similarly afflicted, which is why I will not be giving this writer another chance. 

Seductive Capitalism 

McGuigan doesn’t work within the framework of the nation-state erosion, which makes his work very interesting to me because it adds a completely different dimension.

His account of what we are seeing is that capitalism had to adopt some welfare arrangements to make itself more palatable to people after the excesses of the wild capitalist stage of the 19th century and the resulting social upheavals. 

Then, capitalism found another way to seduce people into allegiance and there was no more need to placate anybody with welfare. So the welfare protections are being rolled back. The seductive strategies of “cool capitalism” are what McGuigan studies. 

A Theoretical Gripe

What I find deeply annoying is that 100% of theorists believe there is some sort of a subversive potential in the impotent, embarrassing and silly protests that have been occurring in pretty much all rich countries since 2007. Nobody has even tried to analyze them realistically without yelping “Yay! Rrrrrevolution!” like excited puppies. 


Hey, colleagues, are you going to the AILCFH conference in Santo Domingo? I mean, it’s Santo Domingo in November, so who doesn’t want to be there?

The call for papers can be found here. The list of topics is incomprehensible to make it possible for more people to apply. If a conference is about nothing in particular, everybody can go.

Hispanic Students

Hispanic students do better in class depending on how peaceful and stable the country they come from is. For instance, Costa Rican students tend to do very well because it’s a relatively prosperous (for Latin America) country.

I’m not good at teaching Hispanic students because I don’t know how to get them to stick with it, not get distracted, not get bored, keep plodding. I want more Hispanic students because they are great for the Anglo students who get to practice in an immersive way and improve their language skills massively. But I can’t say I’m managing to do anything all that useful for the Hispanic students themselves. 

People say that our program is unfair because it gives a natural advantage to native speakers, but that’s such a load of bull. Things couldn’t be more different. 

Cross-cultural Teaching

Maybe what I should answer to yet another obnoxious person who is asking me, “But why don’t you teach Russian instead?” is that it’s an unattractive language with an unimpressive literature, a hopeless history of the language-speaking community, and an impoverished culture. Maybe that will shut them up.

The best part of this particular conversation came when I asked my Korean interlocutor what she did and the response was that she teaches German.

Sunday Link Encyclopedia 

There is a school district that teaches moral relativism and makes students justify the Holocaust. I hope this is an exception, not a rule.

Three popes and a patriarch.  A unique event gets no coverage. 

[Russian] Fear and hatred in America’s most famous Russian ghetto. I’ve never been but I’ve been to others, and they are all pretty much the same. 

 A long and detailed article on the horrors of FGM. I’m glad that FGM is beginning to receive some attention. Not everybody wants to waste their lives on the inane discussions if Ivanka is worse than Chelsea. 

I wish people could just report on interesting stories without having to spoil them by attaching a dumb, chirpy moral to them. 

Professors give the same idiotic excuses as students. It’s the end of the academic year, so I’m really over excuses. 

This is how everybody will occupy their time after robotization does away with work

Infantile idiots grieve graduation. I detest this kind of people. 

Thank you, Quebec, for sparing us a Canadian Trump

Ridiculous at Yale