Tag Archives: Matt Yglesias

100 Best Last Lines from Novels

Matt Yglesias, who first pointed me to this list of the 100 Best Last Lines of Novels [PDF], complained that Gatsby was robbed at No. 3:

“So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.”

Respectable. The only line that came to my mind before looking at the list was Hemingway’s:

“Yes,” I said. “Isn’t it pretty to think so?”

So, by default, that’s my “best.” Papa came in at No. 6, behind Beckett, Ellison, Fitzgerald, Joyce, and Twain.

Related: the quality seems to drop rather abruptly after the first dozen or so. Am I wrong?

The ESPN Zone of Empires

Meanderings appreciates metaphors from all corners of the writing world, including political punditry. This comes from Matt Yglesias:

Afghanistan is often called the “Graveyard of Empires,” but I think the phrase is pretty misleading.

A better analogy might be that it’s the ESPN Zone of empires, someplace where from time to time a lot of people feel tempted to go, but when you get there it turns out to be not so great. But it’s surprisingly expensive to stay! Having gone out of your way to get there in the first place, you’re perhaps initially reluctant to just admit that it’s not worthwhile. But you can’t stay forever.

They do, it must be noted, get the Sunday NFL Ticket package. I don’t think you can get that in Kandahar.

More fridays off

I couldn’t agree more with Matt Yglesias, about the recent three-day Fourth of July weekend:

I think we should formalize the switch, eliminate our “observed on Monday” national holidays and shift them to Fridays.

Our national holiday consistency goes back to the Uniform Monday Holiday Act of 1968, and is imitated by Japan’s poorly-translated Happy Monday System. There does not seem to be a good reason to have national holidays on Mondays. Anyone got one?

More music

Matt Yglesias thinks summer blockbusters (most recently, Public Enemies) are too long:

I feel like it’s way more common to walk out of a theater feeling that a movie was too long than to walk out feeling like I wished there’d been 15 more minutes. I don’t think I’m alone in this feeling. So what’s going on?

I can’t speak for Mr. Depp’s film, but Up is a great recent example of a short movie that doesn’t need to be any longer. Pixar wound the story, the jokes, the visuals so tightly that any more screen time would have watered it down. Just ask George Lucas: the second trio of Star Wars flicks were, on average, ten minutes longer than the originals.

I’m not sure the same applies for music. Off the top of my head, I can come up with a handful of songs I like, that I wish were a verse or two longer: the first and third songs on In the Aeroplane over the Sea, Carry That Weight, and Conor Oberst’s NYC-Gone Gone, to name a few. This last one is the worst offender: a ripping guitar riff, that only lasts 1:12. Perhaps the song would have been ruined by an extra minute, but in sticking with the musical theme of the week, I offer the King as evidence: Billie Jean, Man in the Mirror, Thriller, and Don’t Stop Till You Get Enough were all over 4:50.

So there you have it. Movies should be shorter; songs should be longer.