Matthews was on to promote his new book, "Life is a Campaign", and, for the first time since I've been watching the show, Stewart laid into the author's book hard, arguing strenuously against the book's basic premise. When Matthews attempted to battle back with reasons why his book wasn't, in fact, an absolute waste of time to have written, Stewart laid into him all the harder, apparently willing to accept nothing less from Matthews than hearing him utter the words, "You're right. I'm going to ask the publisher to recall all copies and have them pulped."
Back when Stewart appeared on Crossfire and went after Tucker Carlson and Paul Begala with rhetorical guns o' blazin', (and essentially helped get the show canceled), part of me thought that Jon Stewart had, perhaps, gotten too big for his britches, had bought too deeply into his own press; but this part was overwhelmed by the other, larger part, that agreed with everything Stewart was saying, and enjoyed watching Tucker Carlson being called names to his face on live TV. But this Matthews thing seems totally different.
I don't believe Stewart believes Matthews is "hurting America" as he did with the Crossfire gang, only that Matthews' book is wrongheaded by taking something that is, in many ways, false and dishonest, namely a political campaign, and spinning it into a useful way to conduct one's life.
I think if Matthews knew he was going to get sandbagged on the show, he would have come prepared with some comebacks, of which I think there are many. Because he wasn't prepared for a Stewart attack, his defense of his own book consisted of little more than a couple half-hearted anecdotes and his usual foghorn guffaw. (And despite the cheery smile and laughter, you could tell Matthews was pissed throughout). Stewart's main point (if I may prattle on for a bit longer), seemed to be that campaigns are all "contrivances" and lies, and that his book was a "recipe for sadness". Matthews never had a good comeback for anything Stewart said.
But here's the thing: isn't much of one's life, particularly one's working life, a contrivance? And if so, doesn't it hold that a political campaign might be a good handbook for navigating the waters of all those hours spent in a world of "contrivance"?
Any poor bastard who has to work for a living has to lie and dissemble just to keep their job. If your boss is an idiot, or is doing something stupid, (which, for some people, is a daily fact of life), do you get all honest on them and say, "You're an idiot, boss. Here's what should happen." No, you either keep your mouth shut (as political candidates do when there's an issue that doesn't benefit them to speak on), or you couch it in diplomatic language designed to inform as much as possible without offending (as Hillary and others do when they refer to Republicans, many of whom voted for her husband's impeachment, as: "my friends from the other side of the aisle.") Isn't that contrivance? The majority of Americans are in jobs they don't really like, and working at them for 10-12 hours a day when they'd rather be doing anything else. If that's not a recipe for sadness, I don't know what is. So I think it's entirely plausible that the lessons of a well-run political campaign, cynical as they might be, might be of use when trying to make a living in a working world fueled almost entirely on bullshit.
So I guess the real question is this: what crawled up Stewart's ass last night? Was it really the book, or was it Matthews, or was Stewart just having a bad night? And why did he have to make me try and defend Chris Matthews' book?
Some other things:
1.) Check out this brief webisode from the making of "The Mist". This one's interesting because it shows off the very cool set of the web-choked pharmacy, which, as it is in the novella, is adjacent to the grocery store in which the bulk of the movie's set. And it also shows how the scene looks in the final movie. Pretty decent effects, I'd say. Also it's nice to watch Darabont dote on actress Frances Sternhagen, who's been a great character actor for a lot of years, and has a fun scene here.
2.) Also from shocktillyoudrop.com, there's a report that after Guillermo Del Toro finishes "Hellboy 2", he's going to film one of my favorite H.P. Lovecraft stories, "The Mountains of Madness". No one of note has ever attempted to film Lovecraft, and though I didn't much like "Pan's Labyrinth", I think Guillermo's just the guy to do it. Like Peter Jackson and "Lord of the Rings", Guillermo's reverence for Lovecraft might translate into a unique horror film.
And 3.) Someone named Melvin Jules Bukiet wrote an essay taking to task a whole school of fiction he's calling the "Brooklyn Books of Wonder". Read it here. I have to admit that I take a bit of pleasure reading a takedown of Eggers, Lethem, Kunkel, Safran Foer, and Chabon, authors whom I all hate owing to their seemingly effortless writing ability. Some of Bukiet's punches land, but many only succeed in making the essayist seem a humorless curmudgeon who probably doesn't like much that's been written in the last 100 years. Though when he lambastes "The Lovely Bones" for being an "escape novel", it's hard not to take his point. [SPOILERS AHEAD!]:
"Generally speaking, the sex-murder of an adolescent offers little that’s good. But in The Lovely Bones, mom and pop hook up and so do Ray and Ruth, whose body Susie is allowed to occupy just long enough to have real, true, beautiful sex for once in her afterlife. “I had never been touched like this,” she tells us. “I had only been hurt by hands past all tenderness. But spreading out into my heaven after death had been a moonbeam that swirled and blinked on and off. . . . Inside my head I said the word gentle.” The book ends with a glow.
Every impulse in every sane reader must shriek No! at this pabulum. It’s not lovely that Susie’s been slaughtered, hacked, and dumped in a pit. It’s not lovely that icy Mr. Harvey gets his comeuppance by a conveniently dropped icicle as the pit containing Susie’s body parts is being drained, leading us to assume that her remains will be found and that she will finally get a lovely stone.
Nice thought if you can abide it. Unfortunately, it’s false to all human experience to find “growth” in tragedy. In fact, the dull truth is that pain is tautological. The only thing suffering teaches us is that we are capable of suffering."
I doubt this essay will be, in any way, a game changer for contemporary literature. This wide-ranging critique seems a bit like B.R. Myers' 2001 critique of authors like Cormac McCarthy, Dom DeLillo, Annie Proulx and others, for writing so-called "perfect" prose at the expense of all else. Myers called this style of writing "The Cult of the Sentence", and in the wake of that essay, absolutely no one's minds seem to have changed on any of those writers. I doubt being labeled a writer of "BBoWs" will do much to diminish sales for this new crop of talented, albeit occasionally precious, writers either.
Oh yes! Two friend-related links. Check out Brian O'Connell's new La-La Land-oriented podcast, and Monolith has revamped and restarted his blog, which sports an excellent title for a blog. Also he's been updating it like crazy. So, you know, check those out.
And that's it.