Book Notes: Tana French’s The Witch Elm

Tana French is a great mystery / police procedural author from Ireland. But even a great author can produce a dud. And this novel is definitely it. And it’s such a shame because her previous novel was about the crisis, and it was so great. And then all of a sudden she steps away from all that and writes about some ridiculous adolescent drama of overgrown rich kids.

The novel did wonders for my sleep issues because it’s boring, unrealistic, meaningless, and the characters are ridiculous cliches without a spark of unpredictability. The gay character is a whiny, promiscuous, drug-addicted drama queen. The protagonist’s girlfriend is a supportive, cheerful, chirpy, self-sacrificing idiot who is always in a great mood and ready to help. The cop is every stereotype of a cop in existence. The protagonist himself is “toxic white masculinity” personified.

The only idea that the novel transmits – and whacks you on the head with it repetitively – is that men suck. Gay, straight, young, old, middle-aged, adolescent, healthy, disabled – they are either rabidly vicious or pathetically weak.

And God, the writing. People speak in endless monologues. The conversations are interminable, stilted, and extremely repetitive.

Do yourself a favor and don’t read it, is all I can say.


It’s really weird at my age to find oneself huddled over a laptop in a cafe. But it’s raining like a motherfucker, which means Klara is at home, which means I have to leave to be able to work on my article. This makes me feel young, and I hate this feeling.

I told students the other day that I don’t miss being young at all. At first, they didn’t get it.

“Do you constantly worry about money?” I asked. “About being in debt? Not being able to pay bills? Do you have to work crappy, low-paid jobs you hate? Would you like to travel but have no money? Does dating suck? Do you worry if your life will work out? If you’ll manage to have a family? Do you worry about what others think about you? That you are not attractive enough? That people might think you are fat or stupid or boring? I used to feel all of this back when I was young. But guess what? I don’t any more. Because I’m no longer young.”

“Oh,” they said.

To my younger readers: it totally gets better. A lot better. You couldn’t pay me enough to be twenty again.

Bernie Campaign

What bugs me about the Bernie campaign is a constant, unrelenting barrage of emails, texts, and calls soliciting donations that isn’t accompanied by any attempt to explain what’s going to be different this time around, what the candidate has changed from the last campaign that he lost, what he’s offering that is better than the opponents, etc. Somehow it’s crucial to get to a “fundraising deadline” today to stick it to the “political establishment,” but less important to explain to supporters what and how you are going to deliver.

I watched parts of Trump’s rally from the other day, and he’s being crystal clear on the path to victory and what exactly he’s promising. Anybody who still thinks he’s an easy opponent to beat is brain-dead.

And by the way, you don’t get more “political establishment” than Bernie who has been US Senator forever. So let’s not start with these cheap manipulations so soon.

I never really believed in the mythical Berniebros. I think Bernie’s weakness back in 2016 and today is piss-poor hiring that surrounds him with incompetent fools. It’s a mystery why he can’t hire people who are at least somewhat as talented and organized as he is.

Psychopolitics, Part II

The power of the highest order doesn’t recur to violence.

Once you have to use violence, it means that somebody has found the strength or the presence of mind to oppose you. Real power means you don’t have to break the body because the mind already belongs to you.

Real power is when everybody willingly turns the self into a panopticon and when the disciplinary apparatus moves inside you.

Psychopolitics, Part I

I said before that Byung-Chul Han rewrites Zygmunt Bauman without offering much of his own. However, his book Psychopolitics: Neoliberalism and New Technologies of Power is actually very fresh. It’s my favorite one so far.

Marx promised that the exploitation of the working classes by the owners of the means of production would eventually be abolished by the advent of communism. Obviously, no communism arrived. However, allo-exploitation – which is the exploitation by others – is, indeed, dying out. Neoliberalism is killing it by destroying the barriers between exploited labor and means of production.

Everybody’s means of production is now the self. We are our own means of production. And each of us is both the exploiter and the exploited at once. Instead of allo-exploitation, it’s now auto-exploitation.

The social revolution is no longer possible because there can be no class solidarity when there are no classes.

Let’s illustrate this with an example. It’s 8 pm on a Saturday night. What are people doing? The rich, the poor, and everybody in the middle are working their tails off without any compensation to enrich the owners of Twitter, Instagram, or FB. They are squeezing every ounce of value from their means of production, which is their self. And they don’t even begin to conceive of themselves as exploited.