The Other McCain

"One should either write ruthlessly what one believes to be the truth, or else shut up." — Arthur Koestler

America’s Finest Literary Critic Is in Federal Prison, and Rightly So

Posted on | October 8, 2015 | 24 Comments

Damn his atheist soul, but Barrett Brown is an excellent writer. His mistake was to think this qualified him to be an “investigative journalist,” a task for which his heroin addiction probably disqualified him, as if his habit of associating with criminal terrorists were not bad enough. Fortunately for Barrett, he flipped out in September 2012 and threatened an FBI agent in a manic YouTube meltdown. This has provided him the opportunity to write literary criticism, and this week Barrett Brown takes on novelist Jonathan Frantzen:

In Purity, marriages fail one after another in excruciating 50-page flashbacks. No one is particularly likable or even unlikable, though a few do manage to be insufferable. Toward the end we’re treated to one great character, the cynical plutocrat dad of one of the dastardly feminists, but then he disappears from view and promptly dies. The megalomaniacal information activist is admirably complex, but as a megalomaniacal information activist myself, I found him unconvincing. The one murder that serves to kick off the plot is perpetuated against an otherwise minor off-screen character rather than one of the several main characters whom the reader might have much preferred to see murdered. Franzen is also rather hard on the ladies, whereas everyone would have been better served had he instead been harder on himself and maybe put out a better book.
It’s worth reiterating, though, that this sort of subject matter is not my cup of tea to begin with, and I certainly don’t want anyone to refrain from reading a novel that might interest them simply because I said mean things about it. If you’re up for a “moving meditation on marriage and friendship,” then you should probably read Freedom over and over again until your eyes bleed. If divorce and infidelity and guilt and trial separation is your thing, then you’d better get your ass over to the nearest book store and pick up a copy of Purity. You need not worry about what I think. But if you’re curious anyway, what I think is that I hate you.

You can and should read the whole thing, and laugh as you envision Barrett doing hard time in a federal penitentiary, where he is paying his debt to society and writing witty essays.



24 Responses to “America’s Finest Literary Critic Is in Federal Prison, and Rightly So”

  1. CrustyB
    October 8th, 2015 @ 7:21 am

    In prison he’ll get some first-hand experience as a wife IFKWIM.

  2. Mike G.
    October 8th, 2015 @ 7:25 am

    Maybe that’s why he stays in 23 hour solitary lockup for incorrigible behavior.

  3. Bob Belvedere
    October 8th, 2015 @ 9:48 am

    I agree, Stacy. The man has talent as a writer.

  4. Daniel Freeman
    October 8th, 2015 @ 10:01 am

    Now, I don’t doubt that some worthwhile works of “serious” fiction are still being put out now and again, but I wouldn’t know how to go about finding them, as many of our nation’s respectable outlets have apparently resorted to just hiring crazy people off the street to do their book reviews.

    I infer that he would prefer they hire crazy people in prison. Given his biting wit, that might not actually be a bad idea.

  5. Evi L. Bloggerlady
    October 8th, 2015 @ 10:06 am

    He should think of it as a sort of college and make the best of it. Think Dostoyevsky

  6. Liza
    October 8th, 2015 @ 10:14 am

    How sad–really he’s bright, not as bright as thinks and he is crazy. The mother in me hopes for the best for him. He’s young. He did hit on something–New York Times, things just evaporated there. Anthony Lewis, was married to Maggie Marshal a Justice on MA court and Joe Lelveld and his poor dying wife ran things from their tasteful haunts on Martha’s Vineyard–all over the Clintons, Kennedy pissing into the rose bushes. These people and others had a kind of complicated for the good corruption going on that I suspect has gotten even worse with time.

  7. Dianna Deeley
    October 8th, 2015 @ 10:19 am

    Stacy, given that you’re a really good writer, too, I will say that your recommendation was the only reason I even clicked over, and now I’m hooked. And it’s a working day.

    Save this sort of thing for the weekend!

  8. Evi L. Bloggerlady
    October 8th, 2015 @ 10:40 am

    His actual mother ruined him.

  9. Liza
    October 8th, 2015 @ 10:52 am

    Maybe she can help fix him now.

  10. Matthew W
    October 8th, 2015 @ 11:06 am

    If only he used it for good, instead of EVIL !

  11. Evi L. Bloggerlady
    October 8th, 2015 @ 11:07 am

    I do not wish that on anyone. That is an example of real “rape culture” but it is far worse in state prisons than federal ones.

  12. daialanye
    October 8th, 2015 @ 11:26 am

    Needs a dictionary, though, since it’s “perpetrated” not “perpetuated.”

  13. Finrod Felagund
    October 8th, 2015 @ 12:15 pm

    Or G’Kar from Babylon 5.

  14. Mike G.
    October 8th, 2015 @ 12:22 pm

    Awe jeez…every writer misses a word now and again. Even our esteemed host misses one or two in his 4 or 5 thousand word essays.

    We are all human and make mistakes, even after proofreading several times before hitting the “post” button.

    I know I do and I would have been an English major in college if “party 101” hadn’t ended up being my major, IYKWIM.

  15. Dianna Deeley
    October 8th, 2015 @ 1:18 pm

    Well, that book review was a good start. It’s saved me from having to even allow a thought about the book – or the author – to even speculate about crossing my mind.

  16. RS
    October 8th, 2015 @ 2:34 pm

    I must say–i speak as a Literature major–his observations on the state of modern fiction are spot-on. The problem is, too many English majors are trying to write “serious” fiction, and as a consequence most of it smacks of “Hey, look at me trying to write serious stuff!!!!!” Thus, we get these self-absorbed, overly didactic pieces of crap. Newsflash: Allegories generally suck, though there are exceptions. (The last one worth reading was The Lion, The Witch & The Wardrobe.)

    There is good, serious, page turning fiction out there,–here’s one example–but finding it these days is truly serendipitous.

  17. DeadMessenger
    October 8th, 2015 @ 3:43 pm


  18. DeadMessenger
    October 8th, 2015 @ 3:44 pm

    At least he’d be doing something constructive with his time.

  19. DeadMessenger
    October 8th, 2015 @ 3:46 pm

    “Typo” is my personal method for addressing criticism of anything I write, lol.

  20. Quartermaster
    October 8th, 2015 @ 5:15 pm

    Autocorrect is another good dodge.

  21. McGehee
    October 8th, 2015 @ 7:08 pm

    He seems to have the temperament for writing book reviews (solipsism, and contempt for the reader), which perhaps he’ll stick to in the future if he can stay clean and sober.

  22. Wombat_socho
    October 8th, 2015 @ 9:54 pm

    Big if. Definitely not the way to bet.

  23. guinspen
    October 8th, 2015 @ 11:36 pm

    Tedious is as tedious does.

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