XERXES



 


That's not me.  (I'm over here.)  It's Xerxes in her best Sunday dress.
This week she has been reading Paul Johnson's Intellectuals.
 
 
What do Rousseau, Shelley, Marx, Ibsen, Tolstoy, Hemingway, Brecht, Russell, Sartre,
Wilson, Gollancz, and Hellman all have in common?  They were all first-class bastards. 
Or so Xerxes learned by reading this terribly-gossipy yet engrossing and revealing book. 
She has seen it in many a used-book store over the years and finally decided to give it a try. 
She's quite pleased that she did and recommends it to you.  Here's Johnson's parting advice from
the final page -- advice that seems to have real bite once you make it all the way through the volume.
 
 
"What conclusions should be drawn?  Readers will judge for themselves.
But I think I detect today a certain public scepticism when intellectuals
stand up to preach to us, a growing tendency among ordinary people
to dispute the right of academics, writers, and philosophers, eminent
though they may be, to tell us how to behave and conduct our affairs.
The belief seems to be spreading that intellectuals are no wiser as mentors,
or worthier as exemplars, than the witch doctors or priests of old.
I share that scepticism.  A dozen people picked at random on the street
are at least as likely to offer sensible views on moral and political matters
as a cross-section of the intelligentsia.  But I would go further.  One of
the principal lessons of our tragic century, which has seen so many
millions of innocent lives sacrificed in schemes to improve the lot
of humanity, is -- beware intellectuals.  Not merely should they be kept
well away from the levers of power, they should also be objects of particular
suspicion when they seek to offer collective advice.  Beware committees,
conferences and leagues of intellectuals.  Distrust public statements
issued from their serried ranks.  Discount their verdicts on political
leaders and important events.  For intellectuals, far from being highly
individualistic and non-conformist people, follow certain regular patterns
of behaviour.  Taken as a group, they are often ultra-conformist within
the circles formed by those whose approval they seek and value.
That is what makes them, en masse, so dangerous, for it enables them
to create climates of opinion and prevailing orthodoxies, which themselves
often generate irrational and destructive courses of action.  Above all,
we must at all times remember what intellectuals habitually forget: 
that people matter more than concepts and must come first. 
The worst of all despotisms is the heartless tyranny of ideas."
 
 

***

 
Any comments you might have for Xerxes
can be sent to Hud[dot]Hudson[at]wwu[dot]edu.
I will see to it that she receives them.

***
 
 
Xerxes' Second Year
 
 
Last week Xerxes was reading David Foster Wallace's A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again
The week before Xerxes was reading Alexander Pope's An Essay on Man
The week before Xerxes was reading Edgar Lee Masters's Spoon River Anthology
The week before Xerxes was reading Sara Gruen's Water for Elephants
The week before Xerxes was reading Zora Neale Hurston's Their Eyes Were Watching God
The week before Xerxes was reading Ingmar Bergman's Images: My Life in Film
The week before Xerxes was reading William Trevor's The Story of Lucy Gault
The week before Xerxes was reading Anonymous's Everyman
The week before Xerxes was reading Eugene Field's Little Boy Blue
 The week before Xerxes was reading David Maine's Fallen
The week before Xerxes was reading Stephenie Meyers's Twilight and New Moon
The week before Xerxes was reading Gordy Slack's The Battle Over the Meaning of Everything
The week before Xerxes was reading Nicole Krauss's The History of Love
The week before Xerxes was reading Wallace Stevens's Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird
The week before Xerxes was reading The Dalai Lama's An Open Heart
The week before Xerxes was reading William Shakespeare's Henry IV, Part II
The week before Xerxes was reading William Shakespeare's Henry IV, Part I
The week before Xerxes was reading William Shakespeare's As You Like It
The week before Xerxes was reading William Shakespeare's Antony and Cleopatra
The week before Xerxes was reading William Shakespeare's Macbeth
The week before Xerxes was reading Jelaluddin Rumi's The Essential Rumi
The week before Xerxes was reading Harold Bloom's Where Shall Wisdom Be Found?
The week before Xerxes was reading Anne Fadiman's The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down
The week before Xerxes was reading Leo Tolstoy's The Devil
The week before Xerxes was reading Colin McGinn's Shakespeare's Philosophy
The week before Xerxes was reading Jon Krakauer's Into the Wild
The week before Xerxes was reading Stephen Greenblatt's Will in the World
The week before Xerxes was reading Martin Buber's I and Thou, Meetings, and The Way of Man
 

Xerxes' First Year
 

The week before Xerxes was reading Allan Chinen's Once Upon a Midlife
The week before Xerxes was reading G.K. Chesterton's St Francis of Assisi
The week before Xerxes was reading Jean Toomer's Cane
The week before Xerxes was reading Ikhwān al-Safā's The Animals' Lawsuit against Humanity
The week before Xerxes was reading Patrick Süskind’s Perfume
The week before Xerxes was reading Lewis Carroll's The Hunting of the Snark
The week before Xerxes was reading John Milton's Paradise Regained
The week before Xerxes was reading Dylan Thomas's The Force that Through the Green Fuse Drives the Flower
The week before Xerxes was reading Stephen Crane's The Blue Hotel
The week before Xerxes was reading Gore Vidal's Creation
The week before Xerxes was reading A.S. Byatt's Possession
The week before Xerxes was reading C.S. Lewis's The Great Divorce
The week before Xerxes was reading Mitch Albom's The Five People You Meet in Heaven
 The week before Xerxes was reading Dennis Potter's Blackeyes
The week before Xerxes was reading David Suzuki and Wayne Grady's Tree: A Life Story
The week before Xerxes was reading James Hogg's Confessions of a Justified Sinner
The week before Xerxes was reading Alexander Theroux's Theroux Metaphrastes
The week before Xerxes was reading Mervyn Peake's Titus Alone
The week before Xerxes was reading Mervyn Peake's Gormenghast
The week before Xerxes was reading Mervyn Peake's Titus Groan
The week before Xerxes was reading Walter de la Mare's The Three Royal Monkeys
The week before Xerxes was reading John Collier's His Monkey Wife
The week before Xerxes was reading Lois Lowry's The Giver
The week before Xerxes was reading Rudyard Kipling's Mandalay
The week before Xerxes was reading Ralph Helfer's Modoc
The week before Xerxes was reading Stuart McLean's Home From the Vinyl Cafe
 The week before Xerxes was reading Ossie Davis's Purlie Victorious
The week before Xerxes was reading George MacDonald's The Portent
The week before Xerxes was reading Tom Stoppard's Rosencrantz & Guildenstern are Dead
The week before Xerxes was reading Michael Phillips's George MacDonald - A Biography
The week before Xerxes was reading Christopher Moore's The Stupidest Angel
The week before Xerxes was reading Gordon Lightfoot's Minstrel of the Dawn
The week before Xerxes was reading Sun Tzu's The Art of War
The week before Xerxes was reading Robert Graves's I Claudius
The week before Xerxes was reading Philip Ardagh's A House Called Awful End
 The week before Xerxes was reading John Milton's Paradise Lost
 The week before Xerxes was reading Mervyn Peake's Mr Pye
The week before Xerxes was reading J. K. Rowling's Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows
The week before Xerxes was reading Riff Raff and Magenta's The Time Warp
 The week before Xerxes was reading William Shakespeare's Timon of Athens
 The week before Xerxes was reading J.R.R. Tolkien's The Silmarillion
The week before Xerxes was reading e.e. cummings's anyone lived in a pretty how town
The week before Xerxes was reading Sir Thomas Browne's Religio Medici
The week before Xerxes was reading C.S. Lewis's A Preface to Paradise Lost
The week before Xerxes was reading Stephanie Plowman's The Road to Sardis
The week before Xerxes was reading Alexander Theroux's Darconville's Cat
The week before Xerxes was reading Dennis Potter's The Singing Detective
The week before Xerxes was reading T.S. Eliot's The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock
The week before Xerxes was reading Matthew Scully's Dominion
The week before Xerxes was reading Oscar Wilde's The Picture of Dorian Gray
The week before Xerxes was reading the Prologue in Heaven from Goethe's Faust
The week before Xerxes was reading Christina Rossetti's Goblin Market