Digest, 12/19/2021: You Better Not Cry
the thirty-first digest post
This month, I’m challenging my readers to raise $12,000 for the Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network (RAINN). I’ve donated the first $2,000. You can contribute here.
In case you missed it!
This Week’s Posts
Super rushed this weekend so here’s links only, sorry, summaries back next week.
Song of the Week
Feel like this song should be seen as a classic.
Substack of the Week
Bob Wright is a guy who’s been doing his thing for a long time and has a really interesting niche going for himself - a lot of conventional political analysis, but situated in a larger perspective than most politics writers operate from. His book Nonzero is something of a low-key classic (that I mostly disagree with, for what it’s worth) and I enjoy Wright’s stuff best when he’s taking the very long view. Recommended for a lot of sharp observations that are a few degrees off of where the conversation as a whole is, which results in a lot of interesting provocation.
David Copperfield, Charles Dickens, 1849
I’m one of those who holds that Bleak House is probably Dickens’s greatest artistic accomplishment - it’s so complex and sad and challenging and relentless. But I know which Dickens book I’d save if I could just save one. This book is everything that people are looking for when they think to read Dickens, a big shaggy story about an appealing main character who navigates deep hardship and crazy circumstance, set against a roster of memorable characters in a perfectly-drawn Victorian world. I think part of what makes Bleak House so good is how different it frequently feels from the Dickens of people’s imaginations. But David Copperfield is Dickens doing Dickens in the most quintessential fashion, and it’s brilliant, a heartfelt and rollicking story that unspools over hundreds of pages. If you’re looking for a good book to curl up with over the course of a long winter, I can think of few better.
NFL Picks of the Week
We’re falling apart in the final quarter of the season. If we go winless again this week I’m throwing in the towel for this season.
For one of my classic “I just object to this line on principle” picks, let’s take the New York Jets (+10.5) (!) over the Miami Dolphins. Yes, the Dolphins had a long win streak, but the competition they faced isn’t impressive and they’re not good enough to lay that many points to anybody, imo.
I like the Tennessee Titans (+1) over the Pittsburgh Steelers. Road game or not, I just like the Titans more than the Steelers and Ben Roethlisberger, who looks w-a-s-h-e-d.
Finally, I like the Cincinnati Bengals (+3) over the Broncos. Give me Joe Burrow and the points please.
Win-Loss-Push: 8-13-0 (look away)
Comment of the Week
I read the Marlo arc very differently. I didn’t feel like the ending was supposed to be him “falling” — I thought this was him WINNING, becoming the replacement for Avon as part of the drug establishment instead of the upstart, in the same cyclical way that all the characters are replaced by others at the end of the series. What the Marlo ending shows is that his role is fundamentally unsatisfying: he may have conquered every obstacle in his path, but he’s never going to truly become legitimate (echoes of the way Avon and Stringer Bell wrestled with their role in society in two different ways in past seasons), and he’s never going to be at peace — all he understands is how to fight, he doesn’t know how to enjoy the spoils of victory. So I thought Marlo’s ending was very satisfying: it’s the rise of a new Avon, with the foreshadowing that Marlo’s never going to break free of the fight for dominance that eventually brought Avon down. - Josh
That’s it! Christmaaaaaaaaas!
Hey, speaking of Dickens, are you still planning on doing a post about A Christmas Carol? I’ve been looking forward to it! I also happen to be reading it to my kids right now so I’m especially curious to read your thoughts.
Happy to see the love for Robert Wright. I'd really love to see you elaborate on your disagreements with Nonzero, I recently read part of it and have been quite struck by it. There's a lot in it I can see to criticize, but there's a lot I find really thought-provoking or helpful for making sense of things. It's really influenced my thinking about the co-development of states and religions (along with The Evolution of God).
I'd really appreciate a critical take on it from someone (like you) that I respect. Or if you could direct me to any critiques that you like.