The New York Times books

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September Streams of Consciousness…

coddling

September? Already? School in session? Already? What a mockery that last day of summer (Sept. 22nd) will make of you (when it gets here). You, who’ve presided over summer’s funeral prematurely. Do the words “Rumors of my death have been greatly exaggerated” not mean anything to you?

And what are you doing on book review sites, anyway? You are already overwhelmed with books you own and want to read, so why would you read about books you don’t own and want to read? It scrambles the yolky mind! Settle down, before someone passes the pepper! Just read what you have!

It’s what you get for hanging out in the Books section of The New York Times, anyway, where of course you agreed with everything these two books are about.

So, why can’t you read them, you ask plaintively like the tantrum-tossing child in Aisle 6 (cookies and crackers) at the grocery store?

I’ll tell you why (stating the obvious): because it would involve BUYING one (possibly two) and/or waiting in interlibrary loan lines for God knows how long to read one: Day, day, day, week, week, week, month, month, month, year, decade, life….

So, no.

Deep breath.

Mantra word and mouse click.

Switch sites quickly, no matter how intriguing that conclusion in Thomas Chatterton Williams’ review. You know. Yada-yadas that go like this:

“Where [William] Egginton sees a threat to democracy in a polity insufficiently and unequally educated in the liberal tradition, [Greg] Lukianoff and [Jonathan] Haidt notice something unprecedented and a lot more frightening: a generation, including its most privileged and educated members — especially these members — that has been politically and socially “stunted” by a false and deepening belief in its own fragility. This is a generation engaged in a meritocratic “arms race” of epic proportions, that has racked up the most hours of homework (and screen time) in history but also the fewest ever of something so simple as unsupervised outdoor play. If that sounds trivial, it shouldn’t. “When adult-supervised activities crowd out free play, children are less likely to develop the art of association,” Lukianoff and Haidt write, along with other social skills central to the making of good citizens capable of healthy compromise. Worse, the consequences of a generation unable or disinclined to engage with ideas and interlocutors that make them uncomfortable are dire for society, and open the door — accessible from both the left and the right — to various forms of authoritarianism.”

Got it, Monkey Mind That Is You?

And don’t give me that “what about” bit. The way the review of these two books opens with the anecdote of Anders Carlson-Wee’s poem in The Nation, which already dismayed you here.

No. Put it down and everyone remains safe, chief among them your wallet and your semi-precious time.

You still have your American Poetry Review to read, after all. And your September Poetry no matter how silly.

And what about that lovely new translation you bought at Bridgton Books (Bridgton comma Maine) during the final blazing days of (your) summer: The Complete Cold Mountain: Poems of the Legendary Hermit Hanshan ?

You’ve been wanting to take it slow through the Mountain for seemingly ever, and now that you have it on your desk—now that it stares at you patiently and wisely—you spend time jumping around book sites? Browsing for other suitors? Where’s your sense of wu wei? Where’s your “non-action” (Internet variety) when you need it?

Thank you. Another crisis passed. For now. Never mix books and reading ambition while getting behind the wheel of life. Remember that.

Until next time,
Your Better Self (On the Right Shoulder, Per Usual)