Sunday, August 17, 2014

Good Hillary, Bad Hillary

(Photo: Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images. Photo-illustration by Murphy Lippincott.)
What’s worse than being depicted as a bloodthirsty power-monger with a filthy mouth? Depicting yourself so blandly that no one cares.

the New Yorker
By Frank Rich
Published Aug 12, 2014

Thirty years ago, Michael Kinsley, then with The New Republic, sought to prove his theory that few of Washington’s elites actually read the highfalutin best sellers that they dutifully buy and profess to admire. At a local bookstore, he slipped a note with his phone number deep into the pages of hot new books by the likes of the foreign-policy hand Strobe Talbott and the political pundit Ben Wattenberg, promising a $5 reward to anyone who read that far. Kinsley reported that no one called.

In the digital age, we have the technology to address this same question on a national scale. This summer, a University of Wisconsin mathematician, Jordan Ellenberg, created a small stir by inventing what he called the “Hawking Index” in honor of Stephen Hawking’s much-praised, if not necessarily much-read, A Brief History of Time. Using Amazon’s posted lists of the top five “popular highlights” in books notated by Kindle ­readers—and the page numbers those highlights fall on—Ellenberg crafted a quasi-scientific formula to compute how thoroughly best sellers were being consumed. At the high end by far was Donna Tartt’s novel The Goldfinch, which scored an anomalous 98.5 percent on the Hawking Index. Among nonfiction books, Michael Lewis’s Flash Boys was a leader, at 21.7 percent. At the bottom, breaking Hawking’s previous low (6.6 percent), was the most-written-about best seller of the year, Thomas Piketty’s Capital in the Twenty-First Century, at 2.4 percent. It didn’t take long for a wiseass at the Washington Post to note that another best seller fell still lower than Piketty on the Hawking scale, at 2.04 percent: Hillary Clinton’s Hard Choices.

(More here.)

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