Myers vs. Brooks
March 4, 2011 10:42 PM   Subscribe

Polysyllabic Magical Incantations. For those who enjoy vigorous criticism, a bone-crushing takedown from biologist and blogger PZ Myers of David Brooks' latest foray into belles lettres.

Perhaps not quite in a league with Matt Taibbi on Thomas Friedman, Molly Ivins on Camille Paglia, or Mark Twain on James Fenimore Cooper; but a worthy effort, nonetheless.

Myers, previously on the blue: [1],[2],[3],[4]
posted by steambadger (34 comments total) 15 users marked this as a favorite

 
Anyone else getting no more than a tantalizing glimpse of the rest of the article when they click 'Continue Reading'?
posted by Ritchie at 11:03 PM on March 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


Brooks drops the technical names of two brain regions and a couple of neurotransmitters, briefly mentions their association with learning and reward centers, and we hear nothing more about them for the rest of the book, and nothing in his abbreviated description helps us understand how or why or what.

The above statement pretty much sums up the feeling I get anytime I hear or read anything David Brooks has said or written.

I don't read David Brooks' books, and try to avoid him in general. So I appreciate PZ plodding through this crap so I don't have to.
posted by IvoShandor at 11:24 PM on March 4, 2011 [3 favorites]


I had the same problem as Ritchie, but click on "print" and then "print preview" and you can at least read the whole thing.
posted by lollusc at 11:29 PM on March 4, 2011


Brooks: Theirs was a statelier ascent. They got good grades in school, established solid social connections, joined fine companies, medical practices, and law firms. Wealth settled down upon them gradually, like a gentle snow.
The cake was placed on a large stone which was to be the goal; the course was marked out, we sat down, and at a given signal off flew the children! The victor seized the cake and ate it without pity in the sight of the spectators and of his defeated rival...

To give room to run and to add interest to the race I marked out a longer course and admitted several fresh competitors. Scarcely had they entered the lists than all the passers-by stopped to watch. They were encouraged by shouting, cheering, and clapping. I sometimes saw my little man trembling with excitement, jumping up and shouting when one was about to reach or overtake another—to him these were the Olympian games.

However, the competitors did not always play fair; they got in each other's way, or knocked one another down, or put stones on the track. That led us to separate them and make them start from different places at equal distances from the goal. You will soon see the reason for this, for I must describe this important affair at length.

Tired of seeing his favourite cakes devoured before his eyes, the young lord began to suspect that there was some use in being a quick runner, and seeing that he had two legs of his own, he began to practise running on the quiet. I took care to see nothing, but I knew my stratagem had taken effect. When he thought he was good enough (and I thought so too), he pretended to tease me to give him the other cake. I refused; he persisted, and at last he said angrily, "Well, put it on the stone and mark out the course, and we shall see." "Very good," said I, laughing, "You will get a good appetite, but you will not get the cake." Stung by my mockery, he took heart and won the prize, all the more easily because I had marked out a very short course and taken care that the best runner was out of the way. It will be evident that, after the first step, I had no difficulty in keeping him in training. Soon he took such a fancy for this form of exercise that without any favour he was almost certain to beat the little peasant boys at running, however long the course...

While I continued to mark out a different starting place for each competitor, he did not notice that I had made the distances unequal, so that one of them, having farther to run to reach the goal, was clearly at a disadvantage.
-Emile: or, On Education, by Jean-Jacques Rousseau
posted by Iridic at 1:36 AM on March 5, 2011 [8 favorites]


"The Social Animal: The Hidden Sources of Love, Character, and Achievement,"
That's the title of a Novel!?
posted by delmoi at 2:52 AM on March 5, 2011


A crappy science writer who never talks about science to review another crappy science writer who never talks about science. That's fair, I guess.
posted by shii at 3:25 AM on March 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


I've never met a person who has admitted to going out of his or her way to read David Brooks or Tom "Another Six Months" Friedman.

So who are these fuckwits?
posted by bardic at 3:33 AM on March 5, 2011


Barack Obama is a big fan of Brooks.
posted by delmoi at 4:09 AM on March 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


Seeing Myers reduce people to 'the trust fund set' doesn't exactly encourage me to assume this is a fair-minded review.
posted by Anything at 4:31 AM on March 5, 2011


Buncha hate crazy. Review the novel. It's fiction.
posted by Faze at 4:53 AM on March 5, 2011


Seeing Myers reduce people to 'the trust fund set' doesn't exactly encourage me to assume this is a fair-minded review.

The line about the trust fund-set is the only one I find slightly false:
What story there is here is pure mainlined bourgeois wish fulfillment, a kind of yuppie Mary Sue for the whole of the trust-fund set.
In my mind "bourgeois" and "trust-fund set" describes two different sorts of people. But maybe in a world of $100 million Wall Street bonuses my perspective is flawed. So, how would you review of novel full of drivel by a high courtier of the political elite? I'm pretty sure PZ Myers isn't going to get invited to the right cocktail parties in DC anymore...
posted by ennui.bz at 6:27 AM on March 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


As far as I can tell without having read the book at all (though this scathing jewel of a review is making me want to, if only to sit back and enjoy the trainwreck), this is a book precisely for people who are NOT the trust-fund set, but who would like to imagine that by applying certain principles, and living fitter, happier, more productive lives, they can somehow find a way to compete with that trust-fund set, and attain the same standards of success and wealth. This, of course, is a brutal lie, perpetuated by an entire industry of self-help books, which keep the ambitious busy reading and goal-setting, when they should be out rioting in the streets.
posted by crackingdes at 6:34 AM on March 5, 2011 [7 favorites]


As my grandmother used to say:
review or criticise the art and not the artist.
How many comments here go after the writer rather than what he has written?
posted by Postroad at 6:54 AM on March 5, 2011


Postroad, maybe I'm reading a different thread than you. I haven't read anything here about Brooks the person, only about his quality as a writer.
posted by kyrademon at 7:34 AM on March 5, 2011


Nothing changes. In the introduction, Brooks even mentions this, that the story "takes place perpetually in the current moment, the early twenty-first century," so the characters are born in this decade, grow up in this decade, work in this decade, die in this decade...

This would make a great premise for some novel. Just maybe not the one that Brooks actually wrote.
posted by nebulawindphone at 7:41 AM on March 5, 2011 [2 favorites]


I'm not sure what the problem is with the main link, if people are still having it. It takes me straight through to the main article. Maybe it's a Salon, web two-point-oh-y, kind of thing. In any case, my apologies for the inconvenience.
posted by steambadger at 8:21 AM on March 5, 2011


Yeah, I could never get "Continue Reading" to work, nor the print. Is there anywhere else I can read this article?
posted by fuq at 8:46 AM on March 5, 2011


Ok finally I found a link that worked for me off PZ Myer's website.this link worked for me to read the whole article. Super. I hate to miss out on some book-bashin'.
posted by fuq at 8:51 AM on March 5, 2011


Yeah, I could never get "Continue Reading" to work

Just hit the esc key before the redirect back to where you came from.
posted by Obscure Reference at 8:56 AM on March 5, 2011


A link to a site called "Dickipedia," in which is snidely explains why everyone is a dick? I don't think that's particularly worth posting.
posted by bicyclefish at 9:06 AM on March 5, 2011


I think the larger issue is that Salon.com is broken for many people. Apparently use-testing isn't web 2.0 enough?
posted by fuq at 9:17 AM on March 5, 2011


The Salon link worked fine for me (but this is STEPHEN HARPER'S CANADA. after all!).

IvoShandor: "I appreciate PZ plodding through this crap so I don't have to."

Me too, but I'm having a hard time understanding why I should care at all.
posted by sneebler at 9:39 AM on March 5, 2011


It sounds like the main problem with the book is that there's zero conflict.
posted by sciurus at 10:07 AM on March 5, 2011


A link to a site called "Dickipedia," in which is snidely explains why everyone is a dick? I don't think that's particularly worth posting.

Mea culpa. I was looking for Brooks' Wikipedia page, and that came up, and I couldn't resist. It seemed to fit.
posted by steambadger at 10:27 AM on March 5, 2011


A crappy science writer who never talks about science
posted by shii at 11:25 AM on March 5


This statement can easily be demonstrated to be a lie - at least the bit about PZ never talking about science.

You have embarrassed yourself.
posted by Decani at 10:34 AM on March 5, 2011


A link to a site called "Dickipedia," in which is snidely explains why everyone is a dick? I don't think that's particularly worth posting.

Oh, I beg to differ. That's right up my purile street, thanks steambadger :)
posted by londonmark at 11:46 AM on March 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


The Sims: The Novel
Now with introspection!
posted by chortly at 1:09 PM on March 5, 2011 [2 favorites]


Friedman is a person who not only speaks in malapropisms, he also hears malapropisms.

That Taibbi takedown of Friedman is a beautiful thing.
posted by Existential Dread at 5:58 PM on March 5, 2011 [3 favorites]


chortly, The Sims are a part of Philip K Dick's 'The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch'. Really. He dosen't call them that.
I've never met a person who has admitted to going out of his or her way to read David Brooks or Tom "Another Six Months" Friedman.

So who are these fuckwits?


I loved Bohos in Paradise as a teenager. It described Fairfield, Connecticut perfectly. I remember getting it out of the massive Westport Public Library. Pop sociology was really comforting. Besides Greil Marcus it was the only nonfiction I really read.


A proximate mechanical explanation is no explanation at all

Why not? I'd like to think that 'love' isn't a chemical reaction but that's just wishful thinking
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 6:02 PM on March 5, 2011


Saying the love is a chemical reaction is akin to saying that Citizen Kane is a series of silver halide impressions on nitrate film base projected through a lens and onto a screen. It's true, as far as it goes; but it only tells you so much about Citizen Kane.
posted by steambadger at 6:18 PM on March 5, 2011 [4 favorites]


This statement can easily be demonstrated to be a lie - at least the bit about PZ never talking about science.

I'm sure Stephen Jay Gould would be proud of Mr. Meyers' scientific experiment to see what happens when you pound a nail into the Eucharist. All science writers must have felt proud to be among his noble ranks on the fine day he posted that. Carl Sagan was fucking applauding from his grave.

Seriously, don't delude yourself. The guy is slightly above a Ku Klux Klan member on the level of repugnant individuals attempting to divide humanity against itself. He's no science writer.
posted by shii at 3:29 AM on March 6, 2011


well, the PZ Meyer review seemed, well, mostly just mean - I've heard Christopher Hitchens improv (drunk) better than that.

Meanwhile the Tiabbi piece is a spectacular piece of writing. I know Tiabbi is a huge journo rock star but I've never fully been on board his fan-train, but that was amazing.
posted by victors at 11:57 AM on March 6, 2011


It's not Tom "Another six months" Friedman, it's Tom "Suck on This" Friedman.

What browsers are you guys using? It worked fine for me in FF3.6.

Anyway fuck Brooks and fuck the "Trust Fund Set"
posted by delmoi at 4:03 PM on March 6, 2011


Thomas Nagel: David Brooks’s Theory of Human Nature
posted by homunculus at 5:03 PM on March 12, 2011


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