111 Comments

I've also concluded that the purpose of schooling is to make people never willingly pick up a book again. You captured the painful analysis of 'literature' well. It got me to re-up my subscription.

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Thank goodness I ignored them. However as I’ve gotten older I don’t read as many books. I’m too busy reading my Substacks.

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I’ve often thought the same...almost like exposing kids too young to grasp their meanings to the most timeless and important writings actually served to “inoculate” them against the urge to read them as adults, thereby constraining their future literary landscape to “new” books. A pretty dirty trick, if that’s really what’s happening.

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Tereza: Maybe that's why I hated school (but loved the few really good teachers). I've always loved to read, and normally spend 2-5 hours each day reading, while having a very active life outside hiking, gardening, chatting with neighbors, making stuff, and playing with the cats

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That sounds like a great life, Gary. Yay for really good teachers! Learning is one of the greatest joys in life and it's wasted on the young, especially mandatory force-fed crap that's regurgitated on exams. My book is about a different economic system and in this episode I apply it to education, in a way that I think would be fun: https://thirdparadigm.substack.com/p/reinventing-education.

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ALMOST...This was engrossing; so ingrained in the ways of life; until the United State's Constitution provided the RIGHT to 'Private Property' where for the first time in the west 'the peasants/serfs/people' (slaves) could own their own land to fish, hunt, grow their own food. Finally, their work's benefits were their own.

Among the older set having the opportunity to learn real history, it's no secret of knowing STARVATION/TAXATION/WAR IN ALL LANDS HAD BEEN DELIBERATE as a method of depopulation through all time by the Master who owned the land; Imperialists with the Peers doing no work for their own keep, as Lords over all.

Going to wait till the next one presents.

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I thought that got replaced with the nebulous and ephemeral 'right to happiness.'

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Jun 20, 2023·edited Jun 21, 2023

Of course, you're correct...And, there aren't that many young people remotely well-versed with the Constitution to know "Private Property" to be mentioned in two areas of the document; insured, as NEVER in any other region of the world. Few have travelled outside of the U.S. and don't know that even in Canada, THE CROWN OWNS ALL LAND and there is no GOD-GIVEN INALIENABLE RIGHTS MENTIONED IN THEIR CONSTITUTION guaranteeing any. THERE'S only fealty to The Crown of England... As displayed at the Coronation Ceremony of Ding-a-Ling King/Dictator Up-Chuck as Warrior for RELIGIONS...Instead of even the Anglican Christian Church as tradition dictates. Canadians especially, have no right to 'Private Property' and are thus, SLAVES EVEN TO THIS DAY. Few in the current age have any knowledge to know our families once refered to as peasants/serfs who were really SLAVES starved, were cold, sick, weak and illiterate without opportunity to learn when living under the conditions in Europe the Canadians, Australians, and New Zealanders do today.

It may be too much to hope for; but if only one person not so knowledgable to know 'Private Property' so revolutionary as part of 'The Pursuit of Happiness'; then the purpose is served here. Property ISN'T A RIGHT...IT MUST BE EARNED AND PURSUED...Earning and pursuing is the INALIENABLE RIGHT...NOT HAVING.

It's an important distinction seeminly lost in the Communist idea of 'EQUITY' which is absurd.

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Haven't you heard? Property is theft. Police! Police! Police!

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Have heard...NOT VERY ACCEPTING HERE. Police and Foreigners now inhabiting the Military willing to murder U.S. Citizens to replace them as willing slaves BETTER BEWARE. Some out here are NOT soft, stupid, gullible or unskilled with defense...OR, OFFENSE.

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You sound like Moe with machine guns.

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My book, How to Dismantle an Empire, goes into depth about the Constitution as a coup that replaced the right of community self-governance and economic autarky with three piddling 'gifts': post offices, postal roads and patent protection. I write about it here: https://thirdparadigm.substack.com/p/the-constitutional-convention-coup.

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WONDERFUL...You're on the ball. Providing necessary information for those seeming to have awakened and now searching for it. The numbers are growing with the knowledge of 'Conspiracy' being reality instead of theory...Especially, with the threat inherent to Premeditated Mass Genocide and 'OLD World Slavery'.

Been quite stunning for so many having no connections into knowledge of the actual 'Conspiracy' to be more than theory with the Fascist Nazi Ideology as that chosen to rule the world. The actual web with these spiders has been an awakening for many; like me...As the extent and escalation in such short duration of time was unexpected. KNEW SOMETHING HUGE WAS COMING FOR DECADES AND DESPISED THOSE AS KISSINGER, Clinton, Bush and so many others. Didn't quite grasp the reasons for such visceral disgust...And, now know it was spiritual and a discernment from God to the presence of malevolent evil and motives to perpetrate with impunity.

VERY HAPPY PEOPLE AS YOU HAVE WROTE BOOKS TO ADDRESS THE RISING NEEDS OF THOSE NOW CONSCIOUS TO HIDDEN HISTORY SEEKING INFORMATION.

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"If you have to ask what an author is trying to say, it seems clear he or she is not saying it well."

Bingo. When it's not just incompetence complexity is often camouflage for a bamboozle.

Such a joy reading your writing!

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About 30 years ago I filled in for a HS teacher on leave for 6 months. Kids had a huge reading list, which I knew from the get-go I couldn't get them to read. I bought copies of Catcher in the Rye for the class nd told them not to tell their parents or anyone else in authority what they were reading. They devoured the book. Never had trouble after that recommending a book to them. Great class. Enthusiastic readers trump obedient readers any day of the week!

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I'm working to become a teacher right now and have been playing with the idea to tell the kids something like "the people that make the standards and textbooks want you to be bored. History isn't boring, bu the way they want you to learn it is. In this class, you all will be my accomplices in resisting those that want you to be bored. Together, we will discover ways of resurrecting history; making it live. I can’t do this for you, but I will be here as a guide to help you find something in history to cling to so that we don’t spend the whole year bored stiff.” Idk if that'll work, but it sounds similar to what you did. By making the material seem mysterious, make it like they're getting away with something they shouldn't be getting away with, and not recommending crap, that seems like a strategy worth trying.

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Occam's Razor slices again.

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Laughing out loud, "... same thing as Catholic church, another operation I was souring on."

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That’s one of the best things I’ve read in ages. Thank you very much.

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I'm presuming Matt must have read his conversational buddy Walter Kirn's memoir, Lost In the Meritocracy. For those who haven't I offer the following two relevant excerpts (skip if you're planning to read the book yourself). The first is from very early in the story:

[Kirn:] If my buddies from Minnesota could see me now, they wouldn't have a clue whom they were seeing, and I wouldn't be able to help them. Four years ago my SAT scores launched a new phase in the trajectory that I'd been riding since age five. One morning I opened a test score sheet filled with questions concerning synonyms and antonyms and the meeting time of trucks in opposite lanes, and the next thing I knew I was showered with fawning letters from half the colleges in the country. ... A natural-born child of the meritocracy, I'd been amassing momentum my whole life, entering spelling bees, vying for forensic medals, running my mouth in mock United Nations, and I knew only one direction: forward. I lived for prizes, plaques, citations, stars, and I gave no thought to any goal beyond my next appearance on the honor role. Learning was secondary, promotion was primary. No one ever told me what the point was, except to keep on accumulating points, and this struck me as sufficient. What else was there?

The second excerpt follows Kirn's graduation from Princeton and closes the book:

[Kirn:] My cynicism was creeping back, but later that summer something happened that changed me--not instantly but decisively. A few weeks before I was scheduled to fly to Scotland to spend a few days before I started at Oxford (Adam was staging Soft White Kids in Leather in a secondary venue at the Edinburgh Festival), I came down with a drippy summer cold that lingered, festered, and turned onto pneumonia, forcing me to spend ten days in bed inside a fog bank of mentholated steam. One feverish night I found myself in the living room standing before the bookcase containing my mother's classics for the masses. I'd passed right by them a thousand times, scanned their titles no more than once a year, skimmed a couple of them, finished just one (and hilariously misread it--The Great Gatsby), but that night, bored and sick, I took one down and held it tight: The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. Then I did something unprecedented for me: I carried it to my steamy bedroom and actually let it absorb me, page by page, chapter by chapter, straight on to the end. A few days later I repeated the feat with Great Expectations, another canonical stalwart that I'd somehow gotten through Princeton without opening. Shockingly, I already knew the story: Miss Havisham, a lunatic old woman, is thought to be the secret patron of Pip, the waifish boy who becomes a London gentleman.

And so, belatedly, haltingly, accidentally, and quite implausibly and incredibly, it began at last: my education. I wasn't sure what it would get me, whose approval it might win, or how long it might take to complete (forever, I had an inkling), but for once those weren't my first concerns. Alone in my room, congested and exhausted, I forgot my obsession with self-advancement. I wanted to lose myself. I wanted to read. Instead of filling in the blanks, I wanted to be a blank and be filled in.

I wanted to find out what others thought.

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An example and supporting document as to why guys like Ernie Lehman make better screenwriters than guys like Walt Kirn.

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(?) There's nobody like Ernie Lehman. There's nobody like Walter Kirn. There's nobody like me, you, or anybody else, ever.

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Cat In The Hat?

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"If you have to ask what an author is trying to say, it seems clear he or she is not saying it well." Matt just invalidated 50 years of The New Yorker's fiction section

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2 home runs today, Matt. Make that grand slams. Thanks for the laughs and, especially, the wisdom.

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Great story. Russian irony is in a class of its own.

I enjoyed the discussion you had with Walter Kirn about "The Machine Stops". I did an adaptation of it for radio in the 1980's but was unable to get anywhere with Forster's publishers. I was young and naive.

From the same collection is Forster's short piece titled "The Other Side of the Hedge". That story has stayed with me my whole life as a warning against taking anything too seriously.

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I realize this is totally off the point of your story, but a fifty cent book!! OMG. I’m old enough to still have a few 35 cent classics on the shelves. Amazes me every time I see that.

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Thanks Matt...you are slowly convincing me to read more fiction and less non-fiction.

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Best sentence I’ve had in a while:

“Like perma-scrolling New Yorkers who walk up and down 6th Avenue so engrossed in Current Thing controversies that they’ll walk groin-first into parking meters or traffic even, the ink-stained clerks of the Tsarist era had heads so pumped full of propaganda that there was scarcely room in there for anything but directions to the office.”

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О! Спасибо. Моему мужу мама читала Салтыкова-Щедрина на ночь, когда ему было лет пять или шесть, он до сих пор вспоминает и целыми параграфами на память цитирует.

Пойду куплю своим us born детям. Нехай сначала на английском прочитают.

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Is there an English language translation of this short work?

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These stories that Matt is referring to are all translated into English and that’s the way he read them.

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I was responding to your post in Russian, not Taibbi.

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Oh, sorry!

I thanked Taibbi and said I m gonna give my US born kids the English version of these stories first, before I have them master it in Russian.

Ours is an immigrant home in California, we speak Russian with our kids, but their first and primary language is English. 😐

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Also, I forgot that I said my mom in law read Saltykow-Shedrin to my husband as bed time stories when he was 5-6 years old and to this day he cites his prose as if they were some kinds of memes. They are for him and for the entire generation of Russians. Saltykow-Shedrin is known for his bitter, apologetic satire.

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I understand the nature of his subject matter makes Saltykov difficult to read and interpret for the modern reader. Haven't encountered his name in more than 30 years. Curious how difficult it would be to hunt down one of his works. Always interested in obscure satire from the past.

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Out of curiosity, I looked to see if "Great Russian Short Stories" was still in print. It is!! Published in 1967. This appeals to me because, while I'm not particularly enamored of fiction, the short story is a form I really like. In addition to Gogol and Chekov, I have Irish, Bengali, Arabic, and American short story collections.

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Amazing. Would you take requests? How about an article on Soviet era Russian jokes? They will probably be excruciatingly applicable, and therefore hilarious, to life in the US, in our current era of the Official Narrative.

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Maybe it was the mild dyslexia that prevented me from catching on quickly that urged me into a life of reading.

It was the very first real struggle I faced, and when I actually started to get the hang of it, I went from young adult to trashy horror in less than a year.

It was a very empowering feeling to move out of the lowest reading group into the highest in my 3rd grade class. Some of the Stephen King and Dean Koontz was labeled "pornography" by my little old lady teachers, but I didn't really care.

Those trash novels opened up a whole world for me, one in which I got a taste of the adult world at 8.

I wish I had more time as an adult to while away a summer or two reliving that feeling....

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I have to admit, I disagree with, shake my head about or roll my eyes over a lot of the positions you take on politics, Matt. But I love books, I love literature, I love thinking about books and I love this piece. Talented one you are!

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