News & Criticism

Bush: Now "more literate on literature"

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In the Financial Times, Trevor Butterworth chats up 77-year-old Tom Wolfe. Snippet:

"Bush is portrayed as a moron. I've only conversed with him a couple of times—not for very long—but I found he was more literate on literature than the editor of the New York Review of Books, Bob Silvers. I've talked to both of them, and he makes Bob Silvers look like a slug."

More here.

Via Arts & Letters Daily.

Update: Tom Wolfe sees walking dead people. Everywhere. In the FT story, he denounces NYC's Landmark Preservation Commission as "a bureau of the walking dead." That may be his stock insult. In his legendary '60s takedown of The New Yorker (written for rival mag New York), he referred to William Shawn's over-venerated publication as "the land of the walking dead."

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  1. Nice 0.05 gallon hat. Or is his head just huge?

  2. It’s not funny putting that picture of Don Knotts in there. Let the dead Rest in Peace.

  3. Sometime around the turn of the millennium, Tom Wolfe went funny in the head.

  4. I found he was more literate on literature than the editor of the New York Review of Books, Bob Silvers

    Translation: Bush had some nice things to say about my books, while Silvers, like most people familiar with the English language, thinks I’m an inverterate hack.

  5. I’ve found Bush to be more knowledgable on knowledge than the average person. And more deciderous on deciding, too.

  6. Could he be using chambraigne too? Now with wiener scent?

  7. it has intellihancers

  8. That’s exactly how I took the comment too. Silvers is illiterate because he doesn’t like a lot of Wolfe’s work, while Bush is literate because… I dunno BOB SILVERS SUX!!!!

  9. You know, I think a guy should be allowed to recycle a metaphor (the “walking dead”) once every 40 years or so, don’t you?

  10. This happens periodically, where someone sticks up for the intelligence of the president. Strangely, they’re never very specific about it. Personally I really don’t care how intelligent he is; it’s obvious that he sucks at his job.

  11. Bush: Now “more literate on literature”

    Sounds more like you are late to the discovery Nick 😉

    I like the way he used to call Irving, Mailer and Updike “the three stooges”.

  12. Ye gads! That photo!

    It looks like a professionally taken publicity shot. I hope he got a discount.

  13. You know, Jeffrey Feldman is a recently “reviewed” author who does not think much of the New York Times book reviews either.

  14. How contrarian of Mr. Wolfe! He rejects both the conventional wisdom that Bush is a fool and the conventional wisdom that assertions should be supported with evidence and explained!

  15. Anyone who has ever read “The Right Stuff” and still thinks Tom Wolfe can’t write is an idiot. It is just a great book. If you haven’t read it and don’t think Wolfe can write, read it and reconsider your opinion.

    This really is a man bites dog story. The media portrayal is always Republicans are stupid and Democrats are smart.

  16. “I’ve talked to both of them, and he makes Bob Silvers look like a slug.”

    How is that not explaining? It was an off handed comment. I don’t think Wolfe owed a run down of Bush’s opinions on Tolstoy. Having never met either Silvers or Bush, I really can’t argue with him. If someone who has met both disagrees, I would be curious to hear why.

  17. I actually do believe that Bush has more innate ability than he receives credit for. Don’t forget that his SAT scores were better than Kerry’s and his college grades were better than Gore’s. I am very skeptical, however, of the idea that he has actually applied this ability to become versed in the classics of literature. I wish Wolfe would provide details.

  18. Any Tom Wolfe story without an “oiled berry” reference is a victory for all, especially with the spector of an oiled Bush berry looming over us all.

  19. Bush could be quite literate on literature and still be a moron. Is he a moron? Probably not.

    Anyway, what folks should tag the Bush administration with is a claim of incompetence.

  20. If I wanted to say I thought someone was really stupid, particularly someone I had been feuding with for years, I probably couldn’t do much better than saying “Bush is smarter than X.”

  21. Th Bush administration is modeled on Nuke from Bull Durham: “Fear and ignorance.”

  22. Don’t forget that his SAT scores were better than Kerry’s and his college grades were better than Gore’s.

    More specifically, Bush’s grades were better than Kerry’s too.

    Not positive about the grades against Gore, but I thought Harvard was a much more difficult undergrad program than Yale.

    Then again, Bush actually completed a difficult advanced degree program and Gore flunked out of two.

  23. Yeah, but he is kind of right about The New Yorker. To paraphrase Samuel Johnson, “Here I am in the smallest room of my house, with your publication in front of me. Soon it will be behind me.”

  24. I’ve no doubt Bush had above-average intelligence at some point. A while ago.

    Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test is on my top 10 list. It’s a lot of fun.

  25. Shannon,

    I read some of its articles.

  26. I Am Charlotte Simmons was a book for social conservatives who disapprove of promiscuous coeds but don’t mind reading about the, um, immorality of promiscuous coeds. And it was terrible.

    And who gives a fuck about Bush doing better than Kerry or Gore on his SATs at college? He’s still stoopid as stoopid can be as president.

  27. Sometime around the turn of the millennium, Tom Wolfe went funny in the head.

    Wait, was there a turn of the century in 1968?

    I found he was more literate on literature than the editor of the New York Review of Books, Bob Silvers

    Did this make anyone else think of the Onion article about Bush throwing scintillating dinner parties where he entertains the guests with recitations of Ovid? Or the headline “Bush finally starting to get ‘Kid A'”.

  28. Wow – first Reason announces “Battleship Earth” as the worst book of all time, now it discusses the comparative literary knowledge of Ron Silver and George Bush! How refreshing to link to Reason and be re-directed to the Literary Review!

    Of course, both stories share the same qualifying feature – they both allowed the author to print an unflattering photo of someone he dislikes. Nice.

  29. Juat read The Kandy-Kolored Tangerine-Flake Streamline Baby a few months ago in a collection of his essays bound under that title. I liked it a lot, but he does have a sneeky way of tossing the item that is gettint the least amount of attention in the story up into the title. That particular car was barely mentioned, but it was a great essay about the custom car scene history.

  30. I dunno about all this Wolfe bashing. Bonfire of the Vanities was a great movie.

  31. Personally, I enjoyed the hell out of Bonfire of the Vanities, A Man In Full, and The Right Stuff. Not necessarily stuff for the ages, but good plotting and reasonably well-written in my opinion.

    I heard from a friend whose opinion on literature I trust that I Am Charlotte Simmons was terrible, though, so I didn’t read it.

  32. charlotte simmons was indeed awful. not just relative to the terrific “bonfire” and “full,” but on an absolute basis.

    Bonfire of the Vanities was a great movie.

    posted by stoopid. res ipsa loquitur. when it comes to failed movie adaptions of great novels, it’s not quite as bad as “the natural,” but pretty awful nonetheless.

  33. I’ve never been sure if Bush’s doltish persona is an act or the real thing, but in any case what’s always bothered me is that it hasn’t prevented a lot of people from voting for him.

  34. W’s raw intelligence, given that he graduated with an MBA is probably at least average if not above.

    What he lacks is wisdom, not intelligence.

  35. Anyone who thinks that having an MBA denotes intelligence hasn’t been dealing with them that much.

    Bush may have had a brain (since when do SAT scores denote anything but the ability to take SAT tests?) at one time, but he’s not used it for anything (use it or lose it) and there’s sufficient evidence that he’s pickled his brain in alcohol and cocaine for enough years that whatever so-called intelligence he may have once had is now totally gone. The man at present has a head full of nothing more but slogans and sound bites, with reality never making a dent.

    F*ck dyslexia as an excuse for Bush’s inarticulateness, by the way. One of the most brilliant radio reporters I know was dyslexic as a kid and it didn’t stop him from having a long career for UPI. (And yes, he did write all his own stories.)

  36. Bush’s aw shucks Texas good ol’ boy persona is clearly a put on. The man spent most of his formative years being educated in some of the most elite institutions in New England. He’s clearly not a very good president, but it takes some intelligence to be the son of a president and a grandson of a senator from Connecticut and manage to convince a substantial portion of the country that your just a regular guy from Midland, Texas.

  37. “He’s clearly not a very good president, but it takes some intelligence to be the son of a president and a grandson of a senator from Connecticut and manage to convince a substantial portion of the country that your just a regular guy from Midland, Texas.”

    Or a lot of stupidity on the part of the voters.

  38. What he lacks is wisdom, not intelligence.

    I agree and I’d go so far as to say that his ego and lack of curiosity, his childish devotion to the idea that loyalty trumps honesty and competence, and his experience as a man who failed in every business venture before his successful career in politics, have somehow convinced him that critical thinking is for the birds.

    And you can be intelligent (if getting good grades is truly a valid yardstick) and have zero critical thinking skills at the same time.

    I’ve asked before to no avail, but if anyone can supply me with an impromptu, unscripted remark by the man which indicates something resembling a sophisticated, curious, thoughtful mind (you know, something to put up against that long list of unscripted comments which indicate the opposite), I’d much appreciate it.

  39. JS wrote, “Personally I really don’t care how intelligent he is; it’s obvious that he sucks at his job.”

    Lets see, record stock market, historically low unemployment, haven’t been attacked since 9-11, by what standard or what is your definition of “obvious” JS?
    I think its obvious JS that you are a brainless schmuck. A stupid jealous asshole.
    Where do you live JS?

  40. You know, Jeffrey Feldman is a recently “reviewed” author who does not think much of the New York Times book reviews either.

    Along with about a zillion other people, but what we’re talking about here is the NY Review of Books.

  41. 1) leave poor tom wolfe alone. He’s nuts, as any old writer should be.

    2) george bush is brilliant.

    3) george bush is also completely incompetent and inarticulate.

    4) And dishonest.

    5) And… wait, what were we talking about? Tom Wolfe? Dude where is that picture from? He looks like Batman the TV Show’s version of Tom Wolfe.

  42. Along with about a zillion other people, but what we’re talking about here is the NY Review of Books.

    Oh, that old rag. I would rather watch television that read that blather.

  43. …by what standard or what is your definition of “obvious” JS?

    I think he meant it’s obvious to everyone but knee-jerk loyalists. Just like it’s obvious that Bill Clinton was corrupt and Jimmy Carter was inept to everyone but knee-jerk loyalists.

  44. What else could we expect from a buisness major who believes timelines, deadlines, benchmarks, and budgets have a negative effect on a project.

    I think someone else did his homework or maybe the school was nice to his Dad.

  45. For whatever it’s worth, I have an English degree. And from what I recall of many of my instructors and fellow students, it’s very possible to be quite knowledgeable about literature and yet know nothing at all about economics, the military or military strategy, the nature of government, or basic logic.

    In fact, if you want tenure it’s practically a requirement.

  46. “Lets see, record stock market, historically low unemployment, haven’t been attacked since 9-11…

    You cited to three things the prez has no control over. Remember, that boom in the 1990s had nothing to do with Clinton? Wasn’t that your argument?

    There were 11 years between bombings of the World Trade Center. It has only been 6 since the last attack. I’m not impressed.

  47. “haven’t been attacked since 9/11”

    That’s standard-speak for any supporter of Bush…

    …yawn…

  48. what?!?!

    Bush is an idiot because John Stewart told me so…anyone who says other wise is either a liar, insane or pushing some sort of agenda. (i think i covered everything Wolf was accused of being here)

    Anyway i have never understood the left’s standard attack of calling those who disagree with them dumb…i mean i make fun of joe’s intelligence becouse he has none (read humanities major)…but I can say Stalin is very intelligent but still disagree with everything he stood for and believed.

  49. “”””Lets see, record stock market, historically low unemployment, haven’t been attacked since 9-11…””””

    Sounds about like Clinton if you change since 9/11 to 1993.

  50. Anyway i have never understood the left’s standard attack of calling those who disagree with them dumb…

    I have never understood why people think that assholes on the left act differently than assholes on the right. And who among us here who question Bush’s smarts are on “the left?” For my part I think Bush is short on smarts because he often acts like an utter moron.

    …but I can say Stalin is very intelligent but still disagree with everything he stood for and believed.

    Sure, because there’s evidence that he was. I think Cheney is an intelligent piece of shit. Same with Clinton. If I knew of evidence that Bush was intelligent, I’d have no problem describing him as such.

  51. “””Anyway i have never understood the left’s standard attack of calling those who disagree with them dumb…i mean i make fun of joe’s intelligence becouse he has none “”””

    Ok, so you don’t understand why the left does it, but do you understand why you do it?

  52. “Anyone who thinks that having an MBA denotes intelligence hasn’t been dealing with them that much….since when do SAT scores denote anything but the ability to take SAT tests?”

    I was speaking strictly in terms of normative IQ scores. GWB is unlikely to fall much below the middle of the curve.

    SAT and general intelligence…

    Psychological Science

    Volume 15 Issue 6 Page 373 – June 2004

    Meredith C. Frey, Douglas K. Detterman (2004)
    Scholastic Assessment or g?. The Relationship Between the Scholastic Assessment Test and General Cognitive Ability
    Psychological Science 15 (6), 373-378.
    Abstract-

    There is little evidence showing the relationship between the Scholastic Assessment Test (SAT) and g (general intelligence). This research established the relationship between SAT and g, as well as the appropriateness of the SAT as a measure of g, and examined the SAT as a premorbid measure of intelligence. In Study 1, we used the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth 1979. Measures of g were extracted from the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery and correlated with SAT scores of 917 participants. The resulting correlation was .82 (.86 corrected for nonlinearity). Study 2 investigated the correlation between revised and recentered SAT scores and scores on the Raven’s Advanced Progressive Matrices among 104 undergraduates. The resulting correlation was .483 (.72 corrected for restricted range). These studies indicate that the SAT is mainly a test of g. We provide equations for converting SAT scores to estimated IQs; such conversion could be useful for estimating premorbid IQ or conducting individual difference research with college students.

  53. Others have done the number crunching for ya…

    Bush’s SAT score was 1206 (566 Verbal, 640 Math). See the upper-left
    corner of his Yale transcript:
    http://www.iuptown.com/YaleProtest/bushs_yale_transcript.htm

    This web page offers a theoretical conversion of pre-1974 SAT scores to IQ:
    http://members.shaw.ca/delajara/Pre1974SAT.html

    Based on that conversion chart, Bush’s IQ would be about 129.

    Another web page, “SQ, IQ, and self-skills in recent US Presidents”
    mentions that Charles Murray, author of a book on IQ called “The Bell
    Curve,” compares a that SAT score to an IQ of about 125.

    “On his SAT’s, President GW Bush scored 566 verbal and 640 math, for a
    total of 1206 (from http://members.shaw.ca/delajara/SATIQ.html ). The
    Bell Curve author Murray estimates a 1206 SAT equates to about 125 IQ.

    http://www.sq.4mg.com/Presidents.htm

    ” Finally, when it comes to raw IQ, Bush is in the mid-range of
    American Presidents. In 1999, Charles Murray and I calculated, based
    on Bush’s SAT score of 1206 (old-style scoring system), that his IQ
    was probably about 125 or a little higher…”
    source: Steve Sailer, vdare.com:
    http://www.vdare.com/sailer/karl_rove.htm

    He still lacks wisdom.

  54. “”””Lets see, record stock market, historically low unemployment, haven’t been attacked since 9-11…””””

    Sounds about like Clinton if you change since 9/11 to 1993.

    Sounds like Reagan if you change 1993 to 1983.

  55. Sounds about like Clinton if you change since 9/11 to 1993.

    They do call them the Bush Tax cuts…the tax cuts and reforms of the republican controlled congress are generally not attributed to Clinton.

    You would not be here trying to perpetuate a lie that it was Clinton that pushed the tax cuts, welfare reform, and spending controls of the 90’s would you?

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