Daily Office:


Matins: Novelist and former prosecutor Scott Turow has a very readable piece online about the arrest of the Illinois governor who appointed him to a state Ethics Committee… but the last paragraph requires more parsing than I’m up to.

This astonishing state of affairs persists 32 years after the Supreme Court, in Buckley v Valeo, recognized “the actuality and appearance of corruption resulting from large individual financial contributions” in approving limits on such donations to candidates for federal office. One can only hope that even in Illinois we are too ashamed now to tolerate business as usual.

Prime: “Why I Blog,” by Andrew Sullivan: an endearing, utterly characteristic piece. Mr Sullivan manages to make keeping a blog sound like NASCAR racing, reinvented for writerly types. (via Farmboyz)

You end up writing about yourself, since you are a relatively fixed point in this constant interaction with the ideas and facts of the exterior world. And in this sense, the historic form closest to blogs is the diary. But with this difference: a diary is almost always a private matter. Its raw honesty, its dedication to marking life as it happens and remembering life as it was, makes it a terrestrial log. A few diaries are meant to be read by others, of course, just as correspondence could be—but usually posthumously, or as a way to compile facts for a more considered autobiographical rendering. But a blog, unlike a diary, is instantly public. It transforms this most personal and retrospective of forms into a painfully public and immediate one. It combines the confessional genre with the log form and exposes the author in a manner no author has ever been exposed before.

Vespers: Sam Jordison writes about “The Tyranny of the To-Read Pile,” at the Guardian. 

Bibliophiles everywhere will be only too well acquainted with the demons of guilt and shame that such explorations would conjure. The to-read pile is more than just a physical stack of books: it’s a tower of ambitions failed, hopes unrealised, good intentions unfulfilled. Worse still, it’s a cold hard reminder of mortality. Already, I have intentions to read more books than I can hope to manage in a normal lifetime. How will this pile of books taunt me when I’m 64?


§ Matins. Buckley, to me, is the case that treats money as if it were free speech: no constitutional limits! I can’t think of a case that I’d more fervently like to see overturned. And yet Mr Turow hails it for its “limits on such donations.” Any limits announced by Buckley were swamped by its constitutional misreading.

§ Prime. The droll thing about the timing of this essay is that personal blogging has almost certainly migrated to the social sites, such as Facebook, where searing, brutally honest diarists have some control over their audience — also something that writers have always longed for.

§ Vespers. Now that I’m a lot closer to sixty-four than Mr Jordison, I have to say that the oppression of the To-Read pile seems to diminish every day. This is, after all, all about me, not about impressing anybody else.

Nevertheless, I am working on choking the pile’s growth. I’ve gone back to an old scheme vis-à-vis Amazon: I let things sit in the shopping cart for a while. It’s amazing what turns out not to be so madly indispensable in only five days or less! And I never buy more than two books at a time, no matter how tempted.

That’s the policy, anyway.

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