Jonathan Franzen and Charlie Brown

Jonathan Franzen has an essay on Charles Schulz in this week’s New Yorker. We have not had a chance to read it yet, but here’s a brief and random paragraph from the piece:

I wonder why “cartoonish” remains such a pejorative. It took me half my life to achieve seeing my parents as cartoons. And to become more perfectly a cartoon myself: what a victory that would be.

Why is everyone talking about Roth’s new novel?

In the San Francisco Chronicle Book Review this week, Martin Rubin asks, Why is everyone talking about Roth’s new novel? Part of his answer:

A considerable measure of its appeal is owing to the book’s unusual transparency. In writing about events that never happened and actions by real people that they never undertook — all of it done with an admirable sense of plausibility that somehow trumps the reader’s knowledge that none of this actually happened — Roth has connected with profound feelings that are, apparently, widespread. It seems ineluctably significant that this work was undertaken in the immediate aftermath of the most contentious and ill-resolved election in our history and that its enormous and coruscating success has much to do with its appearance in our midst as we went to the polls again, as fractious and polarized this time as last.

He goes on to discuss the distorted, candy-coated version of President Roosevelt that Roth portrays in the novel, while noting parallels between GWB and both Roosevelt and Lindbergh.

Delays this week

Sorry for the absence of posts. We know, we know—You’re looking forward to more. We’re on application deadlines this week, unfortunately. However, we would like to encourage everyone to read Jonathan Franzen’s essay on Alice Munro, which appeared as the cover story in this week’s New York Times Book Review. If you made it to the end of that sentence without clicking on the link to the essay, read it now!

As a new feature for Mondays, I will be listing the books I bought and the ones I read during the previous week.

Books bought:
Runaway by Alice Munro
Don’t Think of an Elephant by George Lakoff

Books read:
The Last Night of the Yankee Dynasty by Buster Olney

Herbert’s advice to depressed Democrats

In his NYT column today, Bob Herbert bluntly addressed the despair that many Democrats are feeling following the Bush victory:

Which brings me to the Democrats – the ordinary voters, not the politicians – and where they go from here. I have been struck by the extraordinary demoralization, even dark despair, among a lot of voters who desperately wanted John Kerry to defeat Mr. Bush. “We did all we could,” one woman told me, “and we still lost.”

Here’s my advice: You had a couple of days to indulge your depression – now, get over it. The election’s been lost but there’s still a country to save, and with the current leadership that won’t be easy. Crucial matters that have been taken for granted too long – like the Supreme Court and Social Security – are at risk. Caving in to depression and a sense of helplessness should not be an option when the country is speeding toward an abyss.

Roll up your sleeves and do what you can. Talk to your neighbors. Call or write your elected officials. Volunteer to help in political campaigns. Circulate petitions. Attend meetings. Protest. Run for office. Support good candidates who are running for office. Register people to vote. Reach out to the young and the apathetic. Raise money. Stay informed. And vote, vote, vote – every chance you get.

Democracy is a breeze during good times. It’s when the storms are raging that citizenship is put to the test. And there’s a hell of a wind blowing right now.

Thomas Frank Op-Ed in Today’s NY Times

Thomas Frank’s most recent book, What’s the Matter with Kansas? How Conservatives Won the Heart of America preciently explains phenomenon of “moral values” that polls show played a pivotal role in Tuesday’s election.

Frank has an op-ed piece in today’s Times, basically restating the argument conveyed in his book. Frank, who also wrote One Market Under God seems to think that moral/cultural values should always be trumped by economic values. But yet how to make the evangelical Christians and the people in the middle of the country care about the economy or foreign policy of health care or education?

Frank writes:

To short-circuit the Republican appeals to blue-collar constituents, Democrats must confront the cultural populism of the wedge issues with genuine economic populism. They must dust off their own majoritarian militancy instead of suppressing it; sharpen the distinctions between the parties instead of minimizing them; emphasize the contradictions of culture-war populism instead of ignoring them; and speak forthrightly about who gains and who loses from conservative economic policy.

What is more likely, of course, is that Democratic officialdom will simply see this week’s disaster as a reason to redouble their efforts to move to the right. They will give in on, say, Social Security privatization or income tax “reform” and will continue to dream their happy dreams about becoming the party of the enlightened corporate class. And they will be surprised all over again two or four years from now when the conservative populists of the Red America, poorer and angrier than ever, deal the “party of the people” yet another stunning blow.

Peter Beinart calls for a similar Democratic focus on economic issues in The New Republic:

It is true that Kerry failed to win back many lunch-pail, working-class former Democrats. But, instead of focusing merely on why those voters were alienated by the Democrats’ cultural message, party strategists need to pay more attention to why they weren’t attracted by its economic message.

Moral values

Are the people who voted for Bush on moral/cultural issues every going to get what they think they voted for?

Has anyone been more hesitant to call states tonight than The New York Times?

Has Dan Rather ever heard of a touch screen? He just called his an “electronic gadget.” CBS just gave Hawaii to Kerry. Then Rather said, “If this thing gets any closer, we’ll have to call 911, call a nurse, call somebody.” Boy, it might be time to go back to NPR’s coverage.

Is there still hope for Kerry in Ohio? I despair and try to sleep.

People, People—Get out and vote!

That especially means you, Democrats in swing states! I will post my selections from the California ballot later today. Which media sources will people be using to follow the election? (Leave some comments.) Boone and I will be out and about in San Francisco—meet us there.

The Chronicle noted this morning that we should have some clues as to who’s going to win the Presidential election around 4 pm PST.

*Update 11:29 am*
Joel went out to the polls this morning and said the lines were moving very, very slowly.

Athletes and Politics

A story on the AP wire today provides further details about Curt Shilling’s campaigning for George W. Bush. After endorsing Bush during an interview last week and subsequently apologizing for having taken a public political stand, Shilling has now recorded a telephone message for voters in three swing states. Part of his message:

These past couple of weeks, Sox fans … trusted me when it was my turn on the mound. Now you can trust me on this: President Bush is the right leader for our country.

Shilling was initially supposed to make a few campaign stops with Bush, but had to cancel due to his upcoming surgery.

It’s too bad that Shilling is supporting the wrong candidate. Fortunately, Boston’s general magager Theo Epstein has made an appearance with John Kerry. I guess the smart people in baseball really are in the front office.

What disappoints me most about this whole story is not that Shilling supports Bush, but rather that he felt he needed to apologize for expressing that support during an interview. Athletes should use their public platform to express their opinions on political issues, just as so many musicians and writers and actors have during this campaign season. A couple weeks ago I saw Michael Stipe sporting a Kerry t-shirt during R.E.M.’s concert in Berkeley; perhaps, in 2008 we’ll see Johnny Damon doing the same during the Red Sox World Series victory parade. Then again, maybe asking for athletes to take a stand and for a second Red Sox championship in 90 years is a little too much.

More on Nike’s Fenway Park Ad

Nike ran a very well-done advertisement on FOX following the final games of the ALCS and the World Series. In today’s New York Times, Stuart Elliot comments on the marketing viability of the Red Sox following their World Series victory. He points out that Nike had actually developed the Fenway Park commercial for last year’s ALCS, but had to shelve it after Aaron Boone’s homerun sent the Yankees on to the World Series. The ad, which was created by Wiedland + Kennedy, can be seen at Nike’s website. This commercial is not to be missed. If you missed it, we encourage you to check it out. You will not be disappointed.

People of Earth

The Red Sox have won the World Series, and so we thought it would be a good time to start blogging. Here we go—

About Me

Ricky Opaterny has worked variously as a literary agent, book designer, journalist, editor, and producer. He is currently working on a novel about four friends from San Francisco, one of whom is compelled by his wife’s death to live his life in reverse. Ricky attended attended UC Berkeley, where he studied modern American literature as a Regents Scholar, and NYU’s Stern School of Business, where he was an InSITE Fellow. His work has recently appeared in Eat Me, the New York Times, U.25, and the book Surviving Justice: America’s Wrongfully Convicted and Exonerated. Ricky previously worked for Google, an Internet search engine company, where he was the executive producer of Google’s series of conversations, lectures, and concerts called @Google. While at Google, he also launched the company’s initiative to provide free online advertising and education in online marketing to businesses in the developing world. He is currently the program manager at TuneIn, where he manages an editorial team and messes around with SQL. He is also a founding board member of Twenty Summers, an art-type concern on Cape Cod.

He used to work at the following places related to books and publishing:
San Francisco magazine
Metropol Literary
Housing Works
The Believer

Here is an old passport photo of Ricky.

Here is an article about what this blog did in the summer of 2005 to save Kepler’s Books in Menlo Park, California.

Here is an article about what he did from 2005-2008.

Email him if you have any further questions.

This is Ricky’s personal blog. The views expressed on these pages are his alone and not those of his employer.