A Rodney Dangerfield America?

America isn’t dead. It’s just dead in the water.

Why pretend? We have arrived at a point where nearly everyone’s conversation of more than five minutes about what is going on in the nation or the world ends up in the ditch.

The opinion polls are deep into the no-holiday spirit, competing to deliver low blows to the American psyche. Pew Research Center began dim December with a survey titled “Current Decade Rated Worst in 50 Years.” Washington Post/ABC staggered in with the bad word that 61% of the American people think their country is in long-term decline.

The U.S. is starting to sound like one long Rodney Dangerfield joke: “I looked up the family tree and found out I was the sap.”

Why the long national face?

Pew’s numbers touched the heart of the past decade’s sense of sadness. Asked to identify the decade’s singular event, 53% said the attacks of September 11, 2001. Nothing else was close.

It is debated often whether 9/11’s sense of urgency about the threat of Islamic terror has faded. Apparently not for the American people. We’ll catch a break if the past week wakes up Washington.

If at its end the decade was looking for a silver lining, this one got the shaft—another gray September. In September 2008, the U.S. financial system for all intents and purposes blew up. Years of imprudently low interest rates and Congress’s political protection of bargain-basement mortgages decked the world in moral hazard. Cheap money was (is) crack for bankers. When the subprime mortgage mania blew, it took down much of Wall Street and a decade’s worth of 401(k) gains.

Let’s toss in the decade’s last straw just for the fun of it: The politicians running California, New York, New Jersey and arguably Congress were shown to be fiscally deranged. If America is in decline, its political class is leading it over the cliff.

Americans are historic optimists. They must be: Another recent study found that the happiest state in the Union is . . . Louisiana. Hurricanes, floods, wars, depression—somehow this country’s can-do spirit won’t die.

Until now. There is a datum in the pollsters’ 10-year ash heap that is disturbing and new. At the start of 2008, according to Pew, well before the September financial implosion, 41% said the U.S. was the world’s leading economic power; 30% said China. By this November, those numbers had flipped: 44% said China was on top; only 27% said the U.S.

However false this is, what people are saying is they assume China in time will clean our clock. This is a frightening snapshot of national demoralization.

It is a nation refusing to answer the bell. Throwing in the towel. We can’t compete. We’re done.

I don’t buy it. America isn’t dead. It’s just dead in the water.

In Pew’s comparison of five decades, one trumps the other four: the 1980s. “The balance of opinion about the 1980s is overwhelmingly positive across all age groups.” The 1980s’ negative rating is just 12%.

How can this be? As the ’80s ended, pundits everywhere famously wrote the whole thing off as “The Decade of Greed.” Left-wing essayist Barbara Ehrenreich, one of too many to count, called her version of the decade, “The Worst Years of Our Lives.”

But it looks like people think the ’80s were the best years of their lives. We—especially those among us thinking of running for the presidency—had better try to figure out why fast.

Because all conversation in our politics goes straight into rage if one brings any public figure’s name into it, I will preposterously not mention Ronald Reagan.

Forget greed. That was just an artifact, a side show. More than anything, the 1980s freed Americans to do the one thing they love to do above all else: create.

From day one many better decades ago, America has been about compulsive creation. It’s a nation driven by the New—new ideas, new cities, new companies, technologies, art forms, production, management, distribution, design, Hollywood, Tin Pan Alley, Silicon Valley.

Some of it’s good, some of it’s bad, some of it’s ugly. So what? This is the upward-moving mojo that Americans want to get them back in the game—the space to create, build and do what’s new. The big question raised by you-know-who in the 1980s was whether government was part of the solution to national creativity or part of the problem.

Time’s up, so let’s not spoil the downer spirit by ending with false optimism.

We are in the anti-1980s. But I don’t care how flat the earth is; with competitors like China, India and the others, the belief that our big fat national government can somehow subsidize, much less identify, the U.S.’s next creative edge is straight from the dusty book of the original flat-earth society.

So a New Year’s Eve prediction: If we stay on the course set the past year, the next decade will make the 2000s look like the end of the golden age.

Daniel Henninger, Wall Street Journal


Full article and photo: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748703510304574626283961224564.html

A Cold-Blooded Foreign Policy

No despot fears the president, and no demonstrator in Tehran expects him to ride to the rescue.

With year one drawing to a close, the truth of the Obama presidency is laid bare: retrenchment abroad, and redistribution and the intrusive regulatory state at home. This is the genuine calling of Barack Obama, and of the “progressives” holding him to account. The false dichotomy has taken hold—either we care for our own, or we go abroad in search of monsters to destroy or of broken nations to build. The decision to withdraw missile defense for Poland and the Czech Republic was of a piece with that retreat in American power.

In the absence of an overriding commitment to the defense of American primacy in the world, the Obama administration “cheats.” It will not quit the war in Afghanistan but doesn’t fully embrace it as its cause. It prosecutes the war but with Republican support—the diehards in liberal ranks and the isolationists are in no mood for bonding with Afghans. (Harry Reid’s last major foreign policy pronouncement was his assertion, three years ago, that the war in Iraq was lost.)

As revolution simmers on the streets of Iran, the will was summoned in the White House to offer condolences over the passing of Grand Ayatollah Hussein Montazeri, an iconic figure to the Iranian opposition. But the word was also put out that the administration was keen on the prospect of John Kerry making his way to Tehran. No one is fooled. In the time of Barack Obama, “engagement” with Iran’s theocrats and thugs trumps the cause of Iranian democracy.

In retrospect, that patina of cosmopolitanism in President Obama’s background concealed the isolationism of the liberal coalition that brought him to power. The tide had turned in the congressional elections of 2006. American liberalism was done with its own antecedents—the outlook of Woodrow Wilson and FDR and Harry Truman and John Kennedy. It wasn’t quite “Come home, America,” but close to it. This was now the foreign policy of Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi and Joe Biden. There was in the land a “liberal orientalism,” if you will, a dismissive attitude about the ability of other nations to partake of liberty. It had started with belittling the Iraqis’ aptitude for freedom. But there was implicit in it a broader assault on the very idea of freedom’s possibilities in distant places. East was East, and West was West, and never the twain shall meet.

We’re weary, the disillusioned liberalism maintains, and we’re broke, and there are those millions of Americans aching for health care and an economic lifeline. We can’t care for both Ohio and the Anbar, Peoria and Peshawar. It is either those embattled people in Iran or a rescue package for Chrysler.

The joke is on the enthralled crowds in Cairo, Ankara, Berlin and Oslo. The new American president they had fallen for had no genuine calling or attachments abroad. In their enthusiasm for Mr. Obama, and their eagerness to proclaim themselves at one with the postracial meaning of his election, they had missed his aloofness from the genuine struggles in the foreign world.

It was easy, that delirium with Mr. Obama: It made no moral demands on those eager to partake of it. It was also false, in many lands.

Thus Turks who loathed the Kurds in their midst, who denied them the right to their own memory and language, could identify themselves, or so they said, with the triumph of Mr. Obama and his personal history. No one questioned the sincerity with which Egyptians and other Arabs hailed Mr. Obama as they refused to be stirred by the slaughter in Darfur, and as they gave a carte blanche to Khartoum’s blatant racism and cruelty.

Surely there was something amiss in Paris and Berlin—the vast crowds came out for Mr. Obama, but there were millions of Muslims in France and Germany, and the gates hadn’t been opened for them, they hadn’t been swept into the mainstream of European life. Postracicalism, rather like charity, should have begun at home, one would think.

Everywhere there is on display evidence of the rogues taking the Obama administration’s measure, and of America’s vulnerable allies scurrying for cover. A fortnight ago, Lebanon’s young prime minister made his way from Beirut to Damascus: Saad Hariri had come to pay tribute to the Syrian ruler.

Nearly five years earlier, Saad Hariri had insisted on the truth about the identity of his father’s killers. It had been a tumultuous time. Rafik Hariri, a tycoon and former prime minister caught up in a challenge to Syria’s hegemony in Lebanon, had been struck down by a massive bomb on Beirut’s beachfront. It’s obvious, isn’t it, the mourners proclaimed, the trail led to Damascus.

In the aftermath of that brazen political murder, a Syrian tyranny in Lebanon that had all but erased the border between the two countries was brought to a swift end with what would come to be known as the Cedar Revolution. The Pax Americana that had laid waste to the despotism of Saddam Hussein frightened the Syrian rulers, and held out the prospect that a similar fate could yet befall them.

We’re now worlds away from that moment in history. The man who demolished the Iraqi tyranny, George. W. Bush, is no longer in power, and a different sentiment drives America’s conduct abroad. Saad Hariri had no choice but to make peace with his father’s sworn enemies—that short voyage he made to Damascus was his adjustment to the retreat of American power.

In headier moments, Mr. Hariri and the leaders of the Cedar Revolution had been emboldened by American protection. It was not only U.S. military power that had given them heart.

There was that “diplomacy of freedom,” the proclamation that the Pax Americana had had its fill with the autocracies and the rogues of the Greater Middle East. There but for the grace of God go we, the autocrats whispered to themselves as they pondered the fall of the Iraqi despot. To be sure, there was mayhem in the new Iraq—the Arab and Iranian rulers, and the jihadists they winked at and aided, had made sure of that. But there was the promise of freedom, meaningful elections, a new dignity for men and women claiming their own country.

What a difference three or four years make. The despots have waited out that burst of American power and optimism. No despot fears Mr. Obama, and no blogger in Cairo or Damascus or Tehran, no demonstrator in those cruel Iranian streets, expects Mr. Obama to ride to the rescue. To be sure, it was in the past understood that we can’t bear all burdens abroad, or come to the defense of everyone braving tyranny. But there was always that American assertion that when things are in the balance we would always be on freedom’s side.

We hadn’t ridden to the rescue of Rwanda and Burundi in the 1990s, but we had saved the Bosnians and the Kosovars. We didn’t have the power to undo the colossus of Chinese tyranny when the tanks rolled into Tiananmen Square, but the brave dissidents knew that we were on their side, that we were appalled by the cruelty of official power.

It is different today, there is a cold-bloodedness to American foreign policy. “Ideology is so yesterday,” Secretary of State Hillary Clinton proclaimed not long ago, giving voice to the new sentiment.

History and its furies have their logic, and they have not bent to Mr. Obama’s will. He had declared a unilateral end to the “war on terror,” but the jihadists and their mentors are yet to call their war to a halt. From Yemen to Fort Hood and Detroit, the terror continues.

But to go by the utterances of the Obama administration and its devotees, one would have thought that our enemies were Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld, not the preachers and masterminds of terror. The president and his lieutenants spent more time denigrating “rendition” and the Patriot Act than they did tracking down the terror trail and the latest front it had opened at the southern tip of the Arabian Peninsula in Yemen. Our own leaders spoke poorly of our prerogatives and ways, and they were heard the world over.

Under Mr. Obama, we have pulled back from the foreign world. We’re smaller for accepting that false choice between burdens at home and burdens abroad, and the world beyond our shores is more hazardous and cynical for our retrenchment and our self-flagellation.

Mr. Ajami, a professor at Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies and a senior fellow at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution, is the author of “The Foreigner’s Gift” (Free Press, 2007).


Full article and photo: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748704152804574628134281062714.html

New Year’s Resolutions for Washington

Ambitious Republicans should resolve to run for office next year.

President Obama not only left Washington, D.C., for the holidays, but the lower 48 as well. So I thought I’d offer a few New Year’s resolutions for him and others to come back to in the coming year.

First, to Mr. Obama’s staff: The Norwegian Nobel Committee didn’t want to wake the president to tell him about his prize earlier this year, but there shouldn’t be any reluctance to reassure the nation after a terrorist attack. Also, why not resolve to have a few less “historic” moments? How many can one president really have, anyway? A little more grace toward his predecessor would help him, as would less TV time. He is wearing out his welcome and his speechwriters—judging by the quality of their work lately.

In 2010, Mr. Obama should work on his habit of leaving a room of people with deeply divided opinions thinking he agrees with all of them. That leads to disagreements over essential issues, like the meaning of his pledge to begin withdrawal from Afghanistan in 2011 and the nature of the new military mission there.

Finally, Mr. Obama should work on meaning what he says. He didn’t last year with all those health-care deadlines and tough talk supporting the public option. Now Mr. Obama will pivot to jobs and deficit reduction. As he tries to do that, voters will wonder if it’s just a ruse to save Democrats.

Vice President Joe Biden should resolve to speak publicly less. Every time he opens his mouth, the West Wing staff uses him to make the president look good by comparison.

White House Social Secretary Desiree Rogers should take a lead from Santa Clause and make her list and check it twice . . . at the White House gates.

Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano should resolve to take a systems analysis course before she again declares that a system “worked.”

The Democratic congressional leadership should resolve to come up with Plan B. After rejecting bipartisanship in 2009, they won’t be able to pass bills in 2010 with only Democrats. Too many vulnerable Democrats will flake on big votes.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi—who has reportedly let it be known that she is comfortable with losing scores of House seats to pass ObamaCare—might resolve to treat her pet Blue Dogs a little better. As for the Blue Dogs, why not resolve to become Republicans?

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid should resolve to strive for a little less unity in his caucus and in the meantime enjoy this term in office. It’s likely to be his last unless Nevada Republicans tear themselves apart next year for the privilege of running against him.

Republican congressional leaders should resolve not to sit on their laurels. They’re winning the battle for public opinion on health care, cap and trade, and spending, but by next fall, it won’t be enough to surf voter dissatisfaction with Mr. Obama and Democrats. Voters will want to know what Republican candidates would do.

A second Contract with America won’t suffice. The GOP really won in 1994 by arming candidates with a basket of issues to pick from. Next year, candidates must be fluent in kitchen-table issues from jobs to health care to deficits to spending.

Ambitious Republicans should resolve to run next year. There will be a wave of voter support for GOP positions, but authenticity, passion and conviction matter. Voters can smell them, so bone up on the issues and say what you believe, not what someone tells you to say.

Democratic National Committee Chairman Tim Kaine should resolve not to blame himself for the coming political tsunami that’ll hit his party next November. He should press Mr. Obama to raise lots of money to spend on close races in states where Democrats are in charge of redistricting. If not, he’ll face a very ugly 2012 congressional election, too.

Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele had a great year in generating enthusiasm among small donors, but ends 2009 with less cash on hand than he had when he started the year. He should resolve to stop giving paid speeches and instead use his time repairing frayed relationships with major donors, whose support is critical to winning legislatures that will redraw congressional districts in 2011.

Tea Party members should resolve to resist being turned into another partisan political group. The movement’s power stems from its ideas, not from any party it supports, and it has been very successful in educating Americans and arousing the country. It should let its members set their own personal course in primaries and fall elections.

As for me, I resolve to speak well of Mr. Obama more frequently, curry favor with liberals by being more critical of my fellow conservatives, and be guided by the words of Mark Twain, who said that the start of a New Year “is the accepted time to make your regular annual good resolutions. Next week you can begin paving hell with them as usual.”

Mr. Rove, the former senior adviser and deputy chief of staff to President George W. Bush, is the author of the forthcoming book “Courage and Consequence” (Threshold Editions).


Full article: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748704152804574628161441708216.html

Technology and the New ‘Me’ Generation

Computers and cell phones have become the narcissist’s best friends.

Spare me the stories of your “genius” tech-savvy child who can name every country on Google Earth, or how, because of your iPhone, BlackBerry and three cell phones, you juggle 20 tasks at once and never miss any business—even at 4 a.m., because you sleep with your portable devices. Does anyone care that technology is destroying social graces and turning people into rude jerks?

I’m not just talking about lighting up a movie theater with an iPhone to send text messages or yelling into a cell phone in public. But since when did it become acceptable for technological interaction to supersede in-person communication? 

This happened to me at a recent meeting. The person rushes in 20 minutes late and proceeds to whip out a BlackBerry and fire off emails. He intermittently put the phone to his ear, without in any way ascertaining the identity of the caller, and said, “I’m in a meeting. I’ll call you back.” I asked him if he knew who he was brushing off, and he said no—then laughed.

Hilarious, indeed. The silly fool on the other end mistook the interaction for something of value rather than an ego-inflation event.   

We are the center of our own universe now, and the world revolves around us. Time magazine even said so a couple of years ago when it made “You” its “Person of the Year.” It’s no coincidence that the cover featured a giant computer. Never has a narcissist had a better friend.

Since then, many among us have taken that honor and run with it. Not in any physical sense—that would require effort—but in the arena where the most untalented, fattest slob can outrun Usain Bolt or out-golf Tiger Woods using only his thumbs. This is where we can all shine.

In the old days, cowboys would take their guns out of their holster in the saloon and place them on the table in polite company. Conversational breaks involving actual use of that accessory occurred exclusively in the event of a life-and-death situation. So if the person on the other end isn’t dying, and you aren’t a heart surgeon, then there is no reason for you to be on your BlackBerry or iPhone.

To many people, it doesn’t matter much who calls or what they want. What matters is that the call reflects our existence back upon us. They wanted us, and that is an emergency. Because we won’t feel truly wanted again until the next email, text or call. Our wants. Our needs. Our relentless Twitter stream of banal ramblings. We use our Facebook “fan pages” for the same purpose. Yes, we may have “friends” on Facebook, but some don’t feel truly valued until they have successfully harassed those friends 10 times daily into becoming acknowledged admirers.

The term friend has been linguistically inflated through social media to the point of having almost no value. An acquaintance of mine made a Facebook friend of a murder suspect until he was notified of his misstep. Another told me he ended up on a stranger’s resume as a personal reference because he had added the person indiscriminately as a Facebook friend. Add, add, add . . . 5,000 friends!  Maxed out! Look what a popular guy I am! And guess what? If you died tomorrow, I’m fairly certain that your family could still feed all your funeral attendees with a couple of sandwich trays.

When I set up a meeting with someone, they’re the only person in the room. My friends are few and dear. I refuse to sign anything “xoxo” or “love” unless I mean it.

Too many people seem to be grasping for ways to connect with others while rarely actually connecting in a way that has true value or significance. What so many people end up with is something that looks like a connection from the outside as they text each other a million times a day, or sign notes with “much love.” Sadly, that’s the new standard of personal value in this technological era.

Ms. Marsden is a writer living in Paris.


Full article: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748704152804574627960532587996.html

Obama’s Security ‘Breach’

Returning Gitmo’s detainees to Yemen defies common sense.

President Obama has belatedly declared that the near miss above Detroit constituted “a catastrophic breach of security” and ordered a review of America’s intelligence efforts. We’re glad to hear it, but let’s hope the Commander in Chief also rethinks his own approach to counterterrorism.

Recent events have exposed the shortcomings of treating terror as a law enforcement problem and rushing to close Guantanamo Bay. A new wave of jihadists is coming of age, inspiring last month’s deadly attack at Ft. Hood and nearly bringing down Northwest Flight 253, and next time we may not be so lucky.

Senior leaders of al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula: Abu Hurayrah Qasim al-Reemi , Said al-Shihri, Naser Abdel Karim al-Wahishi, alias Abu Basir, and Abu al-Hareth Muhammad al-Oufi. Al-Oufi, who was once held in U.S. custody in Guantanamo Bay, surrendered in Yemen recently and was handed over to Saudis. Al-Shiri was also once held in Guantanamo.

Their latest sanctuary lies in unruly Yemen, headquarters for al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, or AQAP, which last year pulled off a series of local bombings, including at the U.S. embassy in the capital Sana, killing 13. The al Qaeda chapter in Yemen has re-emerged under the leadership of a former secretary to Osama bin Laden.

Along with a dozen other al Qaeda members, he was allowed to escape from a Yemeni jail in 2006. His deputy, Said Ali al-Shihri, was a Saudi inmate at Gitmo who after his release “graduated” from that country’s terrorist “rehabilitation” program before moving to Yemen last year. About a fifth of the so-called graduates have ended back on the Saudi terror most-wanted list, according to a GAO study this year.

U.S. investigators are looking into whether Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the 23-year-old Nigerian would-be bomber, was in contact with al-Shihri and another Guantanamo alum who turned up at the AQAP, Muhammad al-Awfi. The week before Christmas, Yemen agreed, presumably under U.S. prodding, to take back six more Guantanamo detainees. Ninety-seven of the 210 left at Gitmo are from Yemen, and if this transfer goes smoothly, the Administration wants to repatriate many more. Most are such hard terror cases that this year even Saudi Arabia rejected U.S. entreaties to accept them.

A Pentagon analysis, released in May, showed that one in seven freed Gitmo detainees—61 in all—returned to terrorism. Al-Shihri and Abdullah Ghulam Rasoul, the Taliban’s operations leader in southern Afghanistan, are merely the best known. The Pentagon has since updated its findings, and we’re told the numbers are even worse.

Yet the White House has resisted calls by Members of the House and Senate intelligence committees to declassify this revised report—no doubt because that would make closing Gitmo harder. Congress should insist on its release.

This second generation of al Qaeda also makes good use of modern technology for recruitment. A student from a wealthy family, Abdulmutallab was exposed to radical Islam through the Internet, and according to some reports was a “big fan” of the imam Anwar Al-Awlaki, who ran a popular jihadi Web site and Facebook page. This 38-year-old cleric, who was born in the U.S., is the spiritual leader of AQAP.

Al-Awlaki was also in email contact with Major Nidal Hasan in the months before the Army doctor shot and killed 13 U.S. soldiers at Ft. Hood. U.S. intelligence intercepted emails between the imam and the Major, but the FBI decided that they didn’t constitute a threat. We don’t know if Abdulmuttab also communicated with al-Awlaki, but this too is something Congress should strive to find out.

One encouraging development is that the U.S. and Yemen governments are finally working together against jihadists. A series of recent raids supported by the U.S. have killed more than 50 suspected al Qaeda fighters, including suicide bombers. Al-Awlaki and the top two AQAP leaders were possibly killed in one of the strikes, though their fate is unclear.

Sending Gitmo’s jihadists back to this maelstrom makes no security sense. Yemen has a weak government with mixed loyalties and its prisons are porous. Al-Awlaki himself was released in 2007, having been held at American request. Mr. Obama says we need to close Gitmo because it offends our values, but he’s happy to send its detainees back to Yemen where we can target them with smart bombs when they rejoin the fight. Mr. Obama’s desire to fulfill his campaign pledge to close Gitmo is an ideological fixation that risks letting killers loose to target Americans again.

More broadly, the Administration’s law enforcement mentality is also part of the problem. Its instinct is to attribute every terror incident to a misguided individual—”an isolated extremist,” as the President initially said of Abdulmuttalab—as if al Qaeda sympathies require a membership card and monthly meetings. Hasan and Abdulmuttalab are charged with being jihadists bent on murder who were encouraged or facilitated by other jihadists. This is the way the terror threat is evolving, with virtual recruitment over the Web of radicalized individuals from sanctuaries that change as opportunities arise.

Stopping future attacks is going to require interrogation—and before criminal charges are filed. We need to learn who gave Abdulmuttalab the PETN explosive and whether there is some al Qaeda terrormaster coordinating similar attacks the way KSM coordinated the 9/11 hijackings. Yet the White House impulse is to indict any terrorist we capture under criminal charges and let him lawyer-up. We may be lucky this time if Abdulmuttalab is singing, but that won’t always be the case.

Whatever their mistakes, the Bush-Cheney policies properly identified the enemy and kept the U.S. homeland safe after 9/11. The Obama Administration needs to shed some of its campaign illusions to meet this evolving threat, and not returning Gitmo’s detainees to Yemen is an essential first step.

Editorial, Wall Street Journal


Full article and photo: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748703278604574624503147162222.html

Brenda Maddox’s top 10 Joycean books

To celebrate the 100th Bloomsday – that’s June 16 1904, the date on which Ulysses takes place, and James Joyce first walked out with Nora Barnacle – biographer Brenda Maddox introduces her 10 favourite books by and about Joyce.

1. Dubliners (intro Terence Brown, Penguin)

The first book to read is Joyce’s first, Dubliners. In no way Joyce for Juniors, all his later themes are here; each of the 15 stories is perfection, culminating in probably the finest short story in English, “The Dead”. An excellent critical and illustrated edition is James Joyce’s Dubliners: An Annotated Edition by John Wyse Jackson and Bernard McGinley (Sinclair-Stevenson, 1993).

2. A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man (ed Seamus Deane, Penguin)

This did for repressive Catholicism what DH Lawrence did for Puritanism; that is, it showed the rebellious young the way out. Not incidentally, it beautifully states Joyce’s personal and artistic creed.

3. Ulysses (ed Seamus Deane, Penguin)

The book to take to the desert island. No need to be afraid of it. Jump into the scene at Barney Kiernan’s pub (Episode 12: The Cyclops) where the wandering advertising man, the Jewish Leopold Bloom, tells the mocking Dublin bigots that “Force, hatred, history, all that” is not life. So what is? Love, says Bloom. “I mean the opposite of hatred.”

4. Finnegans Wake (Faber)

Go ahead. Try it. Read the opening page which begins with the end of the final sentence, then turn to the last page, where the sentence begins. As Dublin’s river Anna Livia flows into the sea, illustrating the universal truth that all things die and are born again, Joyce justifies the 17 years put into the book and a lifetime of inventing his own language.

5. James Joyce by Richard Ellman (second edition, OUP 1982)

It is not flawless – it internationalises Joyce and underplays his alcoholism – but it is one of the great biographies of the 20th century, and unputdownably follows the artist and his family from Dublin to Trieste to Zurich to Paris and, fleeing the Nazis in late 1939, back to Zurich, where Joyce died in early 1941.

6. James Joyce: the Years of Bloom by John McCourt (The Lilliput Press, 2000)

A life after Ellmann, and a highly accomplished one, concentrating on the important Trieste years (1904-1920, excluding the world war I years spent in Zurich).

7. Dear Miss Weaver: Harriet Shaw Weaver 1876-1961 by Jane Lidderdale and Mary Nicolson (Viking, 1970)

An account of the selfless London spinster who first published Joyce in London and who, during the 1920s as his devoted patron, scrimped and lived in a cold-water flat to keep the Joyces in luxury in Paris. Her subsidy gave him, for better or worse, the economic freedom to indulge in Finnegans Wake.

8. My Brother’s Keeper by Stanislaus Joyce (Faber)

Stanislaus Joyce’s invaluable account of why James (and later he) fled Ireland for Europe, and his own efforts at keeping his older brother and family afloat in Trieste. It should be supplemented by the much rawer Complete Dublin Diary, ed George Healy (Cornell University Press, 1971).

9. Joyce’s Revenge: History, Politics and Aesthetics in Ulysses by Andrew Gibson (OUP)

A fresh academic reading, grounding Joyce’s book in the British-Irish relations of a century ago: the coloniser colonised.

10. James Joyce and the Making of Ulysses by Frank Budgen (Bloomington Indiana University Press)

A rare view of Joyce seriously at work in Zurich, and honest glimpses of his common-law-wife Nora weeping “Jim wants me to go with other men so he can write about it”.


Full article: http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2003/jun/13/top10s.joyce

Stephen Jones’s top 10 Americana

Stephen Jones is also known as the musician Babybird. His first novel, The Bad Book, was about a damaged childhood; his second, Henry and Ida Swop Teeth, features Siamese twins who forsake their lives as drug-addled scientific guinea pigs to go on the run.

1. America’s Back Porch by Daniel Jeffreys

Being a poor reader, I am naturally and lazily drawn to short stories. This travel book digs into everything I want to know about America’s dirty underbelly.

2. Waiting Period by Hubert Selby Jr

This book, about a man who isn’t able to commit suicide because there’s a mistake in his application to buy a gun, is a great rail against American society and bureaucracy.

3. From A to B and Back Again by Andy Warhol

I’ve never been a Warhol fan, so this was a big surprise. It’s autobiographical but written as though it was a novel and reads wonderfully. It feels very eerie, as though someone else had written it.

4. Factotum by Charles Bukowski

I have collected over 50 of his books and will dip in and out of them till I’m dead. He is my ultimate read and sums up simplicity perfectly. Those who associate him with womanising and ale have only just tipped his iceberg. If anybody has any of his early books for sale, email baby.zip@virgin.net.

5. Junky by William S Burroughs

As with Factotum, I got this in its original pocketsize pulp novel format. I knew nothing about drugs and seediness before I naively read this. Along with Orwell’s Down and Out in London and Paris, it opened my eyes to degradation.

6. Atomic Candy by Phyllis Burke

Beautiful turn of phrase. This deals with an era when TV was beginning to saturate the world: commercialism and politics, and huge finned cars. It drives you through America from beginning to end.

7. Dogwalker by Arthur Bradford

Reviewers said this was weird but to me it’s as normal as pie. It reminded me of Eraserhead and how we care for the fucked-up. It’s a collection of short stories, all concerning freaky dogs and the strange relationships humans have with them. You don’t have to like dogs to enjoy it.

8. Naked Pueblo by Mark Poirier

This is another short story collection. In one of them a kid, later named Jackpot, is born with a dime stuck to her forehead, all because her stripper mother doled out change for her clients’ dollar bills from her vagina. Now, that’s weird.

9. Wild at Heart by Barry Gifford

I rarely read a book then see the film, for fear of spoiling the movie experience. But this is a masterful rollercoaster, and that’s before even knowing that Nicolas Cage and Laura Dern were in the wonderful Lynch version.

10. Cannery Row by John Steinbeck

This is based in Monterey, California, my favourite place in the world. It reads like an A to Z of things I’ve seen there. Monterey’s just off Highway 1 on the coast, the most beautiful drive I was ever lucky to ride.


Full article: http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2003/jun/02/top10s.americana