Blue State Views

Cut Greece Loose?

The Greeks have created a horrific mess for themselves by astonishingly profligate social spending.  Their extravagant, improvident policies threaten to doom their own nation and the European Union of which they are part.  But there is growing sentiment within the EU for cutting Greece loose.  I say: go ahead cut 'em loose. The EU and global stock markets will take a short-term hit, but that's okay.  The Germans are correct on this one: F@%k the Greeks. 



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“The Paris Wife,” by Paula McLain

I've done lots of reading in the past ten days, too much to report in any detail.  So, I'll simply comment on the best of the five novels and note the others.  The best is good literature; the others are beach reads of varying quality.



Paula McLain's The Paris Wife is a luminous look at the young Ernest Hemingway and his crowd of Paris compatriots in the 1920s, seen through the eyes of his first wife, Hadley Richardson.  Though a fictional rendering of that time in Hemingway's life, McLain's novel is thoroughly informed by biographies of Hemingway and by his own writings. Consequently, the reader learns a lot about the great author (the bad as well as the good) and the people with whom he surrounded himself — Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald, Gertrude Stein, Ezra Pound, and others.   To me, the book felt much like Nancy Horan's fine novel about Frank Lloyd Wright, Loving Frank, an intimate portrait of a great (but deeply flawed) figure on the American landscape. 

This is an excellent novel. ★★★★★


And here are four other novels to consider.  

The Arrivals, by Meg Mitchell Moore — A story about empty nesters whose adult children, each facing problems of different kinds, find themselves gravitating back home to their parents' home one summer in Burlington, Vermont.  The characters, dialogue, and human dramas are very real.    ★★★★☆ 


London is the Best City in America, by Laura Dave — A story about a young woman whose brother's impending wedding forces her to revisit her own decision three years earlier to abandon her fiance right before her planned nuptials — and to deal with her brother's ambivalence on the weekend of his wedding.  This is a really skillful novel that nicely captures the angst and paralyzing indecision that many twenty-somethings and thirty-somethings feel when facing life's big decisions.  ★★★★☆

These Things Hiddenby Heather Gudenkauf — A story about a young woman, recently released from five years in prison for a heinous crime, who tries to fit back into an unwelcoming community and to reconnect with family members who want nothing to do with her.  It's partly a suspense novel, partly a domestic novel. Though it has some flaws, it's diverting entertainment.   ★★★☆☆


Heat Wave, by Nancy Thayer — A story about a young woman (32) whose husband has just died of a heart problem, leaving her house-rich but cash-poor, and needing to find a way to support their two young daughters.  They live on Nantucket, so the island itself is, of course, a strong presence in the book, as are the young woman's close female friends, in-laws, and a particularly handsome and available man who was her late husband's best friend.   It's not a bad book, but Thayer is one of those authors whose characters address each other directly by name far more often than people do in real life, distracting the reader (this one, anyway) from some of the book's qualities.  All in all, if you want a good beach read that's set on Nantucket, you're better off going with any of Elin Hilderbrand's books.     ★★☆☆☆

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Best Columnist?

Who is the best op-ed columnist in America? 

My sense is that it's David Brooks of the New York Times.  A moderate conservative, Brooks writes what is the most consistently intelligent column in the U.S.  He's incredibly smart, an excellent writer, and amazingly broad in his purview.

I know that in this space I also have extolled Peggy Noonan's virtues as a columnist.  She's very good.  But not as good as Brooks.

Here's his column from this morning's Times.

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A Guest Stint over at The Atlantic

This week I'll be one of a group of guest bloggers covering for James Fallows, a national correspondent for The Atlantic.  Jim is taking a ten-week leave from his various duties at the magazine, including his blog at its website, to finish a book on China and an article for the magazine.  Jim has put me in good company this week. I'm honored — and grateful for the opportunity.  Follow the blog here

UPDATES:  Here are links to the posts I've written this week for The Atlantic blog site.

Shame on the Kennedys     1/24/11

More on "the Kennedys"     1/25/11

Let's Cut!  Whose Fat Would You Carve Out?  1/25/11

"When you speak … angels sing from above"  1/27/11

Postal Policymaking: A Political Laboratory     1/27/11

Contemporary Student Life   1/29/11

Student Life: More Views     1/29/11

Reagan and Obama: Pragmatism Ascendant   1/30/11

Student Life: Still More Views      1/30/11

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Krugman Profile

The New Yorker magazine piles up around here because each weekly issue has a couple of interesting articles one wants to get to and there's never enough time.  In last week's edition, Larissa MacFarquhar's profile of Paul Krugman surprised me by holding my attention.   The interesting part is that Krugman's wife, Robin Wells, is at least as smart as he is — and a far more appealing person.  

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Kennedy Mania

It's WAY past the expiration date on this, but what the hell.  The news late last week that Rep. Patrick Kennedy (D-RI) had decided not to seek reelection to the House left me totally unmoved because of the way the media handled the story. The Boston Globe devoted several full pages to the story.  You'd have thought the incumbent president had just died!  This was followed by a paroxysm of concern about what it will mean for Congress not to have a Kennedy serving in it for the first time in over sixty years.  Here's what it will mean for Congress: nothing.  Maybe it will mean something to the Kennedy family, but to Congress or the country?  Nothing. 

And can someone tell me why Patrick Kennedy or anybody associated with him thought that this advertisementt, which ran on TV in Rhode Island on Sunday, was a good idea?  It is self-serving, bizarre, and even a little maudlin. And the treacly music gives me the creeps.  good lord.