YEAR(S) IN REVIEW: Utter dismay in Tinton Falls!


Conclusion—Those by whom you've been failed:
Last Sunday—it was Christmas morning—Name Withheld was pulling very few punches.

Her letter, to the New York Times Book Review, came from Tinton Falls, New Jersey, a borough in Monmouth County. We reprint that letter in full:
To the Editor:

I was utterly dismayed when I read the list of the 10 Best Books of the year. This is the worst selection in over 40 years. However, I should not have been surprised, as I have been very disappointed in the Book Review for some time.

Name Withheld
We're not sure why you'd publish that letter. But publish that letter they did!

On that same day, the Book Review published responses by 47 people to a hard-hitting year's-end question.

"In this season of giving," the Book Review said, "we asked some notably avid readers—who also happen to be poets, musicians, diplomats, filmmakers, novelists, actors and artists—to share the books that accompanied them through 2016."

Hours north of Tinton Falls, at least one reader had an uncharitable reaction to the sharing which ensued.

"These are the notably avid readers who failed us through all these year(s)," this tough-talking analyst said.

On the penultimate page of that same Book Review, The Year in Reading 47 were joined by The Bookends 16, who'd been asked a similar question.

"All those avid readers and not a drop to drink," one underwhelmed thought leader said.

Down through the years, these are (among) the many people who failed you! In fairness, we counted fourteen of The Year(s)' End 63 who found a way to signal membership in the club by saying how awful this past year has been. But we found very few notably avid readers who went even one step past that.

At the start of that Book Review section, Open Book columnist John Williams discussed his own year in reading. This is the way he began:
WILLIAMS (12/25/16): This year we asked some notable writers, musicians, actors and others to tell us about their year in reading.

I started the year vowing, arbitrarily, to read more philosophy. If this sounds overly ambitious, that’s only because it was. After chewing on just a bit of Kant and an even smaller bit of Hegel, I satisfied my appetite with something more digestible: “Irrational Man,” by William Barrett, a 1958 primer on existentialism’s roots and branches that might pair well with one of our 10 Best Books of 2016, Sarah Bakewell’s “At the Existentialist Café.”
"The foppishness is everywhere," at least one reader said.

For ourselves, the Bakewell book may have been the most memorable book of the year. That said, we found it memorable due to its highly instructive and world-class complete total incoherence.

Needless to say, this caused reviewers all over the world to praise the book's lucidity. Inevitably, this caused the Times to pick it as one of the year's ten best!

In Tinton Falls, one tough-talking reader pushed back hard. But make no mistake:

The Times had assembled a gaggle of giants to discuss The Year in Reading. Over the past twenty-five years, these are the people who didn't have a thing to say about the trends which have now produced the ascent of Donald J. Trump.

The foppishness was general as we read Sunday's Book Review. So were the scripted howls about this extremely bad year, which gave at least one avid reader "a feeling akin to seasickness."

Or so this reader said.

Next week, we'll start up again; we may start with the pleasing phrase, "mass poisoning of the entire city." That said, a bottom line is already clear. Simply put, our self-impressed tribe simply lacks the tools to perform on the national stage.

Some may suspect this in Tinton Falls. Possibly nowhere else.


  1. "Over the past twenty-five years, these are the people who didn't have a thing to say about the trends which have now produced the ascent of Donald J. Trump."

    A lot of people had a great deal to say about the ascent of Donald Trump. If they didn't attribute it explicitly to the causes Somerby explores, they fought those forces vigorously, in all media.

    They are now being reviled for being elitists. Isn't it enough punishment that they lost and now we have Trump?

    I don't like the books the NY Times tells me to read either. I chalk that up to my own tastes, not to a general decline in the functioning of the intelligentsia. The golden age in NYC disappeared when rents became too high to be affordable by bohemians. It has been all downhill since then.

    NY went for Hillary -- in spite of the NY Times best efforts. Few people read the paper outside NY these days. Maybe Somerby should be criticizing all those papers in Michigan and Wisconsin and PA? They may not be foppish, but I'm sure they have done other things to contribute to the triumph of fake news in the mainstream media.

    1. Many small town papers reprint columns by the NY Times editorial page writers and NY Times news reports, which is part of the reason the Times is still so influential (and a part of our media problem).

    2. "part of the reason the Times is still so influential (and a part of our media problem).'

      Rubbish. I see few newspapers as being "influential." The non-voters and third party nihilists which enabled Trump have little to do with the NYT.

    3. I see things differently, I guess.

    4. "Blind fools usually do" see things differently from the all-wise Lewis C, who is here to tell you don't forget about those smaller papers and when you don't forget them, remember too that they're not influenced by the NY Times, fools!

    5. "The non-voters and third party nihilists which enabled Trump have little to do with the NYT."

      I agree with Lewis.

      It doesn't matter whether the NY Times articles were printed in smaller papers if those papers were not read and didn't influence the people who decided not to vote for Hillary.

      Out of all the papers in the US, only 1 (Sheldon Adelson's paper in LV) endorsed Trump. Who won? Trump. Shall we conclude that papers are influential? On what basis?

  2. "our self-impressed tribe"

    Speak for yourself. You're a 3rd-rate Howard Beale.

    1. Self-impressed is a word that applies most to Donald Trump, not to liberals. It may apply to NY Times columnists but I don't think it applies to the many men and women who are gravely concerned about what will happen now that Trump is elected.

      I don't think Somerby is showing much empathy for them. That makes it offensive when he is so very concerned about the people who did this to us all. They at least got the president they voted for.

    2. The word Somerby applies to liberals is dumb.

  3. "The foppishness is everywhere." These people praise books that are incoherent and create social battles where no serious problem exists. It's all about wearing a fashionable politics and signaling wonderful-personnness to other tribe members through avatar filters. The advent of Trump has them deliriously satisfied in one respect for the opportunity to emote about imagined persecution of others they can proclaim they "stand with."

    Whatever anyone thinks about Trump, watching someone win with every major media star opposing him was worth any downside especially after 8 years of Democrats, including their candidate, standing for nothing but lobbing "RACIST" and the other libels. Voters figured out that it wouldn't matter if Trump never said anything objectionable, anyone opposing Obama and then Hillary was going to be smeared as a racist sexist whateverophobe and the election of Trump was a long overdue middle finger to that tactic. Trump might not be a better president than Hillary but he won't be worse.

    1. I hate to sound like an elitist, but you don't know what foppish means, do you?

    2. The thing about elitists is they're usually foppish yet dumb, not actually elite in any way they imagine. You do sound like one.

    3. And yet you still don't know what foppish means!

    4. Foppish means having a tendency to fop.

      Sorry, I love bad jokes. Benny Hill is my hero

  4. Trump's triumph is in large part due to the media's self destruction of it's credibility. No one believes in the media as a source of accurate news. Trump did not do this to them. He just used it against them and devised a way to get out his message without them. About all thats left for the media is to sit on the sidelines spitting and sputtering as events pass them by. Their access to Trump is pretty much limited to reading his tweets.

    Could not have happened to a more deserving bunch of people.

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