2666 And All That

by Thomas O’Dwyer

Carolina and Roberto Bolaño in 2002. Photo: El Pais
Carolina and Roberto Bolaño in 2002. Photo: El Pais

1066 And All That, a sly rewrite of the history of England, was published in 1930 and became a perennial bestseller. Its subtitle was A Memorable History of England, Comprising All the Parts You Can Remember, Including 103 Good Things, 5 Bad Kings and 2 Genuine Dates. Written by W. C. Sellar and R. J. Yeatman, the book, in the words of one critic, “punctured the more bombastic claims of drum-and-trumpet narratives … both the Tory view of ‘great man’ history and the pieties of Liberal history.” There is no connection, literary or otherwise, between this satirical non-fiction and 2666, the weighty novel by Chilean author Roberto Bolaño, published after his death from liver failure in 2003 at the age of 50. However, that phrase “all the parts you can remember” triggered an association when I found a battered copy of Bolaño’s novel among some old books discarded on a park bench. But it was a half copy — the covers and last 100 pages of the 900-page tome were missing. “The parts you can remember” reminded me of my spotty knowledge of Latin American writing picked up in those faddy years following the so-called Boom in the region’s literature from the 1950s to the 1970s. In the English-reading world, any serious book-lover felt obliged to mention, at the drop of a dinner-party conversation, Jorge Luis Borges, Julio Cortázar, Gabriel García Márquez, Mario Vargas Llosa, Isabel Allende, Octavio Paz, or Carlos Fuentes. The ultimate one-upmanship would have been to claim reading one of the authors in Spanish, but in my years in England, I never heard anyone do so. “You don’t read Borges,” one friend mocked. “You read his translator. That’s like washing your feet with your socks on.” Read more »

Why You’re Going to Vote for Trump and How You Can Win a Free Ticket to Mexico

by Akim Reinhardt
2+2=5
Hello. My name is Akim Reinhardt, I was very, very wrong, and now it's time for me to pay for my mistakes.

The good news is, when I pay, you just might be the one to collect. My loss can be your windfall.

The catch? You'll have to publicly debase yourself almost as much I am about to do right now.

Sigh.

How did it come to this? You and I publicly shaming ourselves on the internet, each of us desperately hoping to salvage a little bit of joy as the world burns around us?

It's all because of that goddamned Donald Trump.

Trump is about to claim the Republican presidential nomination, and a whole lotta pundits got that one wrong. Legions of professional gabbers, from every corner of the political spectrum, badly missed the mark, assuring you that he'd never be the GOP candidate.

Despite their wishful thinking dressed up in high falutin' gibberish, it's happening anyway; Trump is poised to become leader of the pachyderm pack. And so a lot of the yakkers had to make amends.

Dana Milbank of the Washington Post literally ate his words. Pass the salt and pepper.

Nate Cohn of the New York Times and David Byler of Real Clear Politics each created a laundry list of everything they got wrong, which like most analysts, was quite a lot.

Perhaps the oddest mea culpa came from polling wunderkind Nate Silver, who explained away his spectacular failure by saying that he had acted like a barbaric “pundit” instead of staying true to the “scientific method.” Rather than relying on statistical modeling to figure out if Trump would win, Silver says he just made “educated guesses.”

Since Silver never really explains why he traded in true reason for such wild tomfoolery, I'm just gonna assume he went on a months-long bender.

Normally, it would be very easy for me to look down my nose at these losers. After all, I'm not a statistician or a professional talking head. I'm a historian. And if there's one thing studying history has taught me, it's that trying to predict the future is pure folly.

What were these dullards thinking? Guess the future? Good luck with those crystal ball shennanigans. Studying history has shown me, time and time again, that the future is unknowable. The past is a mystery and the future is an illusion. So allow me to haughtily point a sanctimonious finger at these morons.

Except for one thing. It turns out that I'm one of those morons. I, too, am a loser.

I spouted off like all the others, publicly assuring people that Trump would not win the nomination, offering up historically informed ramblings as evidence. And just like the rest of them, I was wrong, wrong, wrong.

It was a fool's errand, of course. So why did I do it?

Read more »