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But What if We're Wrong? Thinking About the Present as if It Were the Past by Chuck Klosterman
a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, Affordable Care Act / Obamacare, British Empire, citizen journalism, cosmological constant, dark matter, Edward Snowden, Elon Musk, Francis Fukuyama: the end of history, Frank Gehry, George Santayana, Gerolamo Cardano, ghettoisation, Howard Zinn, Isaac Newton, non-fiction novel, obamacare, pre–internet, Ralph Nader, Ray Kurzweil, Ronald Reagan, Silicon Valley, Stephen Hawking, the medium is the message, the scientific method, Thomas Kuhn: the structure of scientific revolutions, too big to fail, Y2K
Taken at face value, it seems like the former quality should be preferable to the latter—yet we know this is not true, due to the inclusion of the word “but.” The fox knows a lot, but the hedgehog knows one singular thing that obviously matters more. So what is that singular thing? Well, maybe this: The fox knows all the facts, and the fox can place those facts into a logical context. The fox can see how history and politics intertwine, and he can knit them into a nonfiction novel that makes narrative sense. But the fox can’t see the future, so he assumes it does not exist. The fox is a naïve realist who believes the complicated novel he has constructed is almost complete. Meanwhile, the hedgehog constructs nothing. He just reads over the fox’s shoulder. But he understands something about the manuscript that the fox can’t comprehend—this book will never be finished.
Take any two white males raised in the same income bracket in the same section of the same city, and assume they receive the same treatment from law enforcement and financial institutions and prospective employers. They’re still not equal. One of these people will be smarter than the other. One will be more physically attractive. One will be predisposed to work harder and care more. Even in a pure meritocracy, they would experience differing levels of happiness. “It is not the case that we are born equal and that the conditions of life make our lives unequal,” writes Karl Ove Knausgaard in his nonfiction novel My Struggle: Book 2. “It is the opposite, we are born unequal, and the conditions of life make us more equal.” The apparent unfairness of reality can’t be blamed on our inability to embody this “self-evident” principle. The world would be just as unfair if we did. I realize there’s a natural response to the previous statement, and it’s the same response I would have given fifteen years ago: “This is a conscious misreading of the message.
1960s counterculture, Bonfire of the Vanities, British Empire, citizen journalism, cognitive dissonance, Donner party, East Village, Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test, Haight Ashbury, In Cold Blood by Truman Capote, Menlo Park, New Journalism, non-fiction novel, Norman Mailer, pre–internet, rent control, rolodex, Ronald Reagan, Stewart Brand, upwardly mobile, working poor, yellow journalism
What Capote had in mind was a narrative that would burrow deep into the lives of everyone who was touched by the murder—not only the Clutters, but Perry and Hickock, Al Dewey and his team of detectives, the citizens of Holcomb and Garden City. Using John Hersey’s Hiroshima as a model, Capote would re-create the events using the omniscient voice of a novel—or, to use Capote’s memorable phrase, a “nonfiction novel.” “My theory,” said Capote, “is that you can take any subject and make it into a nonfiction novel. By that I don’t mean a historical or documentary novel—those are popular and interesting but impure genres, with neither the persuasiveness of fact nor thepoetic altitude of fiction. Lots of friends I’ve told these ideas to accuse me of failure of imagination. Ha! I tell them they’re the ones whose imaginations have failed, not me. What I’ve done is much harder than a conventional novel.
Bill Brown thought that Capote’s portrayal of the Clutters was so off the mark as to be virtually unrecognizable. The 135,000-word story ran in four parts in four consecutive issues of The New Yorker beginning with the September 25, 1965, issue; the series was a hit, busting all previous sales records for the magazine. When Random House published it in book form as In Cold Blood, it heralded the arrival of a new form, what Capote called the “nonfiction novel,” and netted its author $2 million in paperback and film sales. Even after the story was published to great fanfare, William Shawn remained uncomfortable with the decision to run it in The New Yorker. For a magazine that prided itself on ironclad accuracy, there was too much unsubstantiated fact, too much fanciful speculation on Capote’s part. Many years later Shawn would still rue the day he gave the green light to Capote’s notion.
Wealth and Poverty: A New Edition for the Twenty-First Century by George Gilder
affirmative action, Albert Einstein, Bernie Madoff, British Empire, capital controls, cleantech, cloud computing, collateralized debt obligation, creative destruction, Credit Default Swap, credit default swaps / collateralized debt obligations, crony capitalism, deindustrialization, diversified portfolio, Donald Trump, equal pay for equal work, floating exchange rates, full employment, George Gilder, Gunnar Myrdal, Home mortgage interest deduction, Howard Zinn, income inequality, invisible hand, Jane Jacobs, Jeff Bezos, job automation, job-hopping, Joseph Schumpeter, knowledge economy, labor-force participation, margin call, Mark Zuckerberg, means of production, medical malpractice, minimum wage unemployment, money market fund, money: store of value / unit of account / medium of exchange, Mont Pelerin Society, moral hazard, mortgage debt, non-fiction novel, North Sea oil, paradox of thrift, Paul Samuelson, Plutocrats, plutocrats, Ponzi scheme, post-industrial society, price stability, Ralph Nader, rent control, Robert Gordon, Ronald Reagan, Silicon Valley, Simon Kuznets, skunkworks, Steve Jobs, The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith, Thomas L Friedman, upwardly mobile, urban renewal, volatility arbitrage, War on Poverty, women in the workforce, working poor, working-age population, yield curve, zero-sum game
But one of my major themes is the grave distortions of view that issue from the sociological practice of discussing society chiefly in segments to be studied separately and statistically: the poor, the rich, women, men, business, and labor. This book sprang from an earlier work of mine, Visible Man, an essentially sociological venture that undertook to understand poverty by studying the poor. Visible Man became a nonfiction novel based on interviews with hundreds of poor people in Albany, New York, and Greenville, South Carolina. I learned much from these researches about the devastating impact of the programs of liberalism on the poor. But perhaps the most important lesson I learned was the inadequacy of any theory of poverty that did not embody a theory of wealth. So Wealth & Poverty began with the title The Pursuit of Poverty and ended as an analysis of the roots of economic growth.
air freight, Apple II, Bill Gates: Altair 8800, Buckminster Fuller, Byte Shop, computer age, computer vision, corporate governance, Donald Knuth, El Camino Real, game design, Hacker Ethic, hacker house, Haight Ashbury, John Conway, John Markoff, Mark Zuckerberg, Menlo Park, non-fiction novel, Norman Mailer, Paul Graham, popular electronics, RAND corporation, reversible computing, Richard Stallman, Silicon Valley, software patent, speech recognition, Steve Jobs, Steve Wozniak, Steven Levy, Stewart Brand, Ted Nelson, Whole Earth Catalog, Y Combinator
The kind of tension I saw between hackers and bosses in Sierra On-Line has largely been resolved, not just at start-up companies but bigger ones like Google, as the hacker mentality has been incorporated as a value within the firm. (Ken Williams, by the way, has left the business after Sierra was snapped up by a conglomerate. “Both Roberta and I have completely ‘dropped out’ of the game business, or even playing games,” he writes in an email. A sailing enthusiast, he’s written three books on his cruising adventures, and Roberta is working on a nonfiction novel about the Irish immigration.) A new generation of hackers has emerged, techies who don’t see business as an enemy but the means through which their ideas and innovations can find the broadest audience. Take Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, who has drawn four hundred million users to share their personal lives online. At twenty-five, he has proven a master at the black art of business development—deliberately and purposefully opening his site to advertisers and marketers.
Darwin's Dangerous Idea: Evolution and the Meanings of Life by Daniel C. Dennett
Albert Einstein, Alfred Russel Wallace, anthropic principle, assortative mating, buy low sell high, cellular automata, combinatorial explosion, complexity theory, computer age, conceptual framework, Conway's Game of Life, Danny Hillis, double helix, Douglas Hofstadter, Drosophila, finite state, Gödel, Escher, Bach, In Cold Blood by Truman Capote, invention of writing, Isaac Newton, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, John von Neumann, Murray Gell-Mann, New Journalism, non-fiction novel, Peter Singer: altruism, phenotype, price mechanism, prisoner's dilemma, QWERTY keyboard, random walk, Richard Feynman, Richard Feynman, Rodney Brooks, Schrödinger's Cat, selection bias, Stephen Hawking, Steven Pinker, strong AI, the scientific method, theory of mind, Thomas Malthus, Turing machine, Turing test
Today bookstores face the same sort of ill-formed problem: how should the following categories be cross-organized: bestsellers, science fiction, horror, garden, biography, novels, collections, sports, illustrated books? If horror is a genus of fiction, then true tales of horror present a problem. Must all novels be fiction? Then the bookseller cannot honor Truman Capote's own description of In Cold Blood (1965) as a nonfiction novel, but the book doesn't sit comfortably amid either the biographies or the history books. In what section of the bookstore should the book you are reading be shelved? Obviously there is no one Right Way to categorize books — nominal essences are all we will ever find in this domain. But many naturalists were convinced on general principles that there were real essences to be found among the categories of their Natural System of living things.
The tolerance for what one wants to be the truth at the expense of genuine truth is why we currently have a government which is of the opinion that truth looks exactly like a urinal. If you're going to write fiction, call it fiction, for Christ's sake. People love romans a clef just as much as actual memoirs; indeed, they feel naughtier because you know the sex scenes are going to be better written. Writing non-fiction novels only works when you are Truman Capote, or intermittently if you're Tom Wolfe. I may be going out on a limb here, not having read him and all, but I'm guessing Mr. Frey is in fact neither of them. CHAPTER FOUR: Science Fiction, or, Don't Skip This Chapter, You Damned Writing Snobs Yes, yes, yes. I know. Science fiction isn't real literature. That label gets reserved for the "literary fiction" genre, in which people hang about in their small towns and/or Brooklyn, collecting tiny experiential moments like coupons until they have enough to redeem for the Quiet Moment of Clarity just before the end of the story.