Tom Nichols first wrote about the increased acceptance of ignorance in the west in a 2013 blog post and later in an article in The Federalist. Now he'Tom Nichols first wrote about the increased acceptance of ignorance in the west in a 2013 blog post and later in an article in The Federalist. Now he's expanded his ideas into a book which tries to explain why the advice of experts is debunked and resented, why Americans are often not only misinformed but "aggressively wrong," and why access to so much information has led to a widespread belief that knowledge is easily attained through tablets and phones, therefore making everyone as smart as experts.
He discusses how the growing problem has come about through almost universal use of the Internet itself creating an atmosphere where interaction between individuals is becoming less frequent, meaning less discourse and cross-pollination of ideas, or even thought. The Internet gives us an enormous amount of information many consider knowledge. Higher education has become consumer-oriented as more and more people seek degrees. Institutions compete for the tuitions of the masses attending college today, and that competition means student bodies, as customers, are always right. As a result, adulthood is essentially postponed while at the same time students aren't challenged and graduate believing themselves educated and knowing more than they actually do. Competition is also at fault in today's journalism. News markets compete for viewers by catering to specific groups wanting specific slants. That and the glut of news that tells people what they want to hear is actually making the people of the west less informed.
This is a terribly interesting book which helps verbalize the dumbing down of the west we see occurring around us and attempts to explain why....more
An Editor's Notes on Writing and Writers is the subtitle of Terry McDonell's memoir. He calls it The Accidental Life because he began his career as aAn Editor's Notes on Writing and Writers is the subtitle of Terry McDonell's memoir. He calls it The Accidental Life because he began his career as a photographer. Instead of following a straight path, though, as he describes it, he tried writing a novel, tried making a documentary film. Nothing was working until he became a combination reporter/editor at San Francisco Magazine. In the years since he's worked on and edited some of the biggest magazines in America, including Sports Illustrated, Rolling Stone, Esquire, and Newsweek. For me the chapters on writers are the most interesting parts of the book. McDonell's accidental editing life has allowed him to become friends with and swim in the same currents as some of America's best writers. His material on them is richly anecdotal and honest. He has many wonderful stories about each, about what it's like to spend time with them, about how they approach writing, particularly for his magazines. Here are chapters about playing golf with Hunter S. Thompson and hunting with Richard Ford and fishing with Jim Harrison. But Peter Matthiessen is here, and so is James Salter, George Plimpton, and Thomas McGuane along with a generous broadcasting of others we're familiar with. I didn't know, for instance, that Jimmy Buffett can write, but McDonell likes his work very much. All these people are friends, too, and so they're fondly remembered and written about, even their warts. My sense is that this kind of remembering of writers he's known and worked with accounts for over half of the book. A good thing--I was less interested in how to put together a magazine's layout or how a submitted piece is cut in half over the writer's objections or even in how the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit issue is photographed. The writers and writing are the meat of it....more
Those who admire Thoreau and his intimacy with nature around Concord and New England may have a sense of a legendary man equal to it, one who walked aThose who admire Thoreau and his intimacy with nature around Concord and New England may have a sense of a legendary man equal to it, one who walked around in it confident it held few mysteries for him. The strength of Walls's portrait of Thoreau is that she writes him as a man who knew some things about how water flows and about birds, who understood the leaf and the way of squirrels, but who was still humbled by the natural world. Her book is the biography of a rather unaffected man who spent his whole life observing the details of the surroundings he inhabited, mostly around Concord, his home, but he also knew Maine and Cape Cod well and even made a trip as far as Minnesota near the end of his life. What impressed me is she allows him to be a citizen of Concord like any other, a man who worked at making pencils or surveying land or helping neighbors, even as he was always studying berries or ducks.
She says she wrote the biography because the life she sought, that of Thoreau the writer, was not in any book. So she wrote this life. It does emphasize his writing. She says Thoreau wanted to be taken seriously as a writer, to be admired for his work in the same ways Emerson was admired. She describes how hard he worked at it, publishing 2 books and many essays in his lifetime. I'd not known before how much he wrote for magazines or how many lectures he wrote to give before gatherings in the region. I'd not understood before how intensely he wanted to be known for his poetry and how deeply disappointed he was when he wasn't. His successes were in the book Walden and in his essays. And the Journal which became famous after his death.
This biography goes with others I have to help form a more whole picture of the man. I doubt it completes him. It is a comprehensive look at Thoreau the writer. The earlier biographer I most admire, Robert D. Richardson, wrote such a lengthy and glowing blurb for Walls's book that anyone reading it has to acknowledge that she does justice to her subject....more