Saturday, December 21, 2019

The Spy Review of Unreadable Books, Just in Time for Christmas

Editors' Note:  Not what you were expecting?  The explanation is simple: we don't have anything to say about impeachment that Adam Schiff hasn't already said better than we could, so why not change the subject and in the best tradition of the Spy's commitment to service journalism, solve your most pressing holiday shopping query: what do you get for the person you hate but have to give a present to?  You know, your boss, your client, your neighbor whose lawnmower you keep borrowing, your landlord, and so many others.  It has to be something that no one would enjoy, value, or use but not so obviously contemptuous as to get you into hot water.  Here are two perfect solutions: books so terrible that you don't have to open their cover to figure out the drivel within (that's what “unreadable” means), each supposedly written by a loathsome plutocrat with pretensions to the kind of fawning respectability that only a white man's billions can buy.

What It Takes: Lessons in the Pursuit of Excellence
by Stephen Schwarzman (at left)
Avid/Simon & Schuster
$30, marked down to $17.99

Here's one of America's leading shameless finagling plutocrats who now feels compelled to share the secret of his entirely unmerited success with you, the wage slaves who made it all possible, thanks to your utter inattention to the subversion of America's tax and regulatory structure while you were staring at your f***in' phones.

He made billions running his private equity, real estate and god knows what else empire without in fact making a single contribution to the overall economy or the welfare of anyone other than himself and his circle of fellow rapacious raiders.

We assume he won't be telling us the thrilling tale of how he made and trousered a pantload on the collapse of the housing market in 2008 and the ensuing human misery.  Nor do we expect to hear much on the clever tax strategems that enabled his firm to avoid paying corporate income tax for years until the Republican Congress he bought and paid for made it financially advantageous to do otherwise.

Look for a number of tedious anecdotes about business deals that demonstrate his genius not to mention plenty of fawning from the politicians and do-gooders he has shtupped with a few pennies from his bulging pockets.  Each will come packaged with a moral that will explain to those who toil for miserable wages by taking care of the old or teaching the young why they should be grateful that for example this tone-deaf tycoon was willing to drop a wad of cash on his old high school – on the condition that the town rename the school for him.

PS The School Board had the nerve to tell him to stick his moneybags where the moon don't shine, whereupon he gave them the dough in exchange for naming a classroom after him.

It's a perfect gift for the rich person you hate because it reminds them they don't have nearly the pelf this predator has, which is why he's got a book with his name on it and they don't.


The American Story: Conversations with Master Historians  
by David M. Rubenstein (at right) and Carla Hayden
Simon & Schuster (again) [Purely a coincidence that S&S is in turn controlled by brain-dead plutocrat Sumner Redstone? – Book Review Ed.]
$30, already marked down to $24.85

This year, Santa's bag groans with not one unreadable tome “authored” by a shameless billionaire finagler, but two. Those not entranced by Schwarzman's stories of the wonders of me can instead delve into another private equity tycoon's literary, uh, effort.  In Rubinstein's case this involves basking in the reflected glory of real historians, proving once again that every academic has their price and to a titan of wealth like Rubinstein, that price is pocket change.

In other words (namely Roger Debris's), it's David Rubinstein presents . . . history!

The cover will tell you what kind of history matters to self-important billionaires like Rubinstein, who, like Schwarzman, has contributed exactly nothing to economic growth or the general welfare.  The essays by names like Robert Caro and Doris Kearns Goodwin are mostly about, wait for it, great white men.  (To be fair, there's one about Martin Luther King, Jr.)

This used to be called the “great man” theory of history, which attributes primary significance to the decisions and whims of powerful white men, like Rubinstein.  There are of course a few defects in this theory of history, all of which we see reflected in the current crisis of Western Civilization.

You won't find any real focus on racism and misogyny as bits of history that might be worth considering.  In particular, you won't see much effort to discern the bright red line of anti-black bigotry that dates at least to 1619 and continues to the most recent rally of President Pussy Ass Bitch.  How can you understand America without coming to terms with its racist past?

That's easy: you can't.  But you can sit down for chummy seminars and dinners with reputable historians and hope than by association some of their credibility rubs off on you and your ill-gotten gains.  Also, wear sincere glasses.  That will really help.

This is the perfect gift for your frenemies with intellectual pretensions who will have to pretend to like this book.  It's worth it just so you can ask them in February what they thought of David McCullough's no-doubt-worthy take on John Adams.  Bonus points to you if they say they enjoyed the part about how he was both a revolutionary and a master brewer.

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