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Re: ‘Need to Know’



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I thought I’d add a word or two to Mona’s note about our latest podcast. As you know, Bret Stephens is our guest. And as you can imagine — if you happen to be familiar with the three of us — this podcast is a festival of like-mindedness. There has not been so much like-mindedness since any of the three of us dined alone. I think I disagree with Mona or Bret about every 2,000th column, give or take.

Every once in a while, like-mindedness can be quite nice. Often, actually.

Anyway, Mona mentioned that Bret praises a book of mine. I, in turn, praise a book of hers. And Bret names what he calls the two greatest novels of the 20th century. The second is The Magic Mountain. And — should I tell the first? Yes, why be teasey? The first is Lord Jim.

I took great umbrage for Semi-Tough, but what can you do? Stephens is highbrow.

Years ago, I read the opinion of Harold Bloom — no, the dictum of Harold Bloom — that Bleak House and Middlemarch are the two best novels in English. (I think I’m remembering correctly. If not, apologies to Professor Bloom.) I do not dispute his judgment on matters literary. I promptly acquired those books — bought them, at a time when I could afford to buy very few books. (I was a library borrower — remember that?) I have started those two books many times. I hope to get through them by about 2025.

Anyway, hope you like the podcast — ends with some hot klezmer (seriously).

P.S. I have stayed in the very asylum — now a hotel, I hasten to say — where The Magic Mountain takes place. Had the novel with me. Tried to read it (again). I know that “Snow” is the most beautiful thing ever written, or whatever. Everyone says so. I will finish The Magic Mountain — get up that darn hill — soon after I’m done with Bleak House and Middlemarch.

The problem is, there’s always another column on NRO to read, and I enjoy them so!



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