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When I originally read that column I wondered if Brooks had never married and was wistfully writing about that in his usual pop-psychology style, but I see from the PBS bio that he's married and lives in Maryland. The next thing I thought while reading was that it was awfully damned presumptive of him to offer advice to people whose shoes he's not filling.

Pfft. I get tired of Brooks easily.

Nancy Nall

Meryl's happy sole marriage was made after great heartbreak, as you probably know. She was in love with John Cazale and I think they were engaged, but he died young of bone cancer. Her husband is an artist, too.

Mike Schilling

If you're David Brooks, and have landed one of the top gigs in punditry with no apparent talent as a writer, thinker, or analyst, I suppose you just assume that people can choose to be lucky.


Yes, here again we have proof of the marvel that is David Brooks' place on the national stage. I assume he gets to continue because people find comfort in his neat constructions, but when was the last time one held true? Have you noticed the letters to the editor he inevitably draws? Lots of smart readers dismantle him completely all the time, and yet he maintains his place. It actually astonishes me on a regular basis.

When I was teaching college, Brooks did a cover story describing "today's college students" based on some few days he spent observing a chosen handful of Princeton seniors. His conclusions were quite the laugh riot in the faculty lunchroom where I taught. A different universe!

Just last night I was listening to an interview with comedy writer-producer-director Bob Odenkirk, who lamented how thoroughly he has tied his sense of identity to his work life. The interviewer, also a comedy professional, tried to help him out, "But your kids. When you look at your kids you probably feel satisfaction there too..." - Excruciatingly long pause follows, then Odenkirk (who had already mentioned how much he enjoys his two kids) says, "Well, that's why I'm in therapy."

Does this make Odenkirk a bad person? A faulty parent? Not necessarily. It makes him an honest human being who is working with the personal demons of his own experience. As. We. All. Are. And these are infinite in their variety. But Brooks' cheap constructions would have us value some more and some less, which makes him unable to hold a meaningful big picture.

I take comfort that others find him equally maddening.


One of the true gifts in my life is having people like Lance who will read BoBo for me and then publish the notes when warranted. I accidentally heard BoBo for 5 seconds this afternoon on ATC; it wasn't a pleasant experience. Keep up the good work, Lance.


In "They Live," the great John Carpenter film of the Reagan era, one of the subliminal messages by the aliens to their human chattel is "Get married and have children."

Maybe Bobo is one of Them and needs to meet up with Rowdy Roddy Piper in a mood to kick ass and chew bubblegum on a day when Roddy is all out of bubblegum.


Actually, there's a pretty good question underlying Brooks' question, and while he posits a really stupid example and expounds on that, the underlying question goes untouched.

When a person has an ambition, a change in life's direction, how much is he or she willing to sacrifice to get there?

In other words, let's flip the second half of his question on ear: let's say Bullock had slept with any number of people to get the Oscar winning role.

Would that have been worth giving up a marriage to Jesse James (assuming he wasn't the sleazeball he appears to be)?

If you're lucky, you've pursued your heart's desire from the get-go and have established a relationship with someone who bought into that dream.

Most of us are not that lucky. Most of us changed when our partners didn't want us to change. So what do you give up to pursue your dreams?

The Siren

Brooks' column is yet another reminding women--not men, no matter what he says, but women--that we can't have it all. What a pleasure to read a man willing to rip this miserable rubbish into small square pieces and stuff it up DB's overpaid nose.

You're in a groove these days, my friend.


"I recommend that he go read the Book of Job."

No, do not recommend the Book of Job; in the end, Job gets it all back and lives happily ever after. He should read the book wherein the character starts out with shit, gets more shit during his life, and ends with a finale of shit. Which is what happens to many people in this world.


Bobo reminds me of the willingly ignorant dupe who boards the alien space ship to leave earth, realizing too late that the aliens tome, "To Serve Man," is really a cookbook.


Brooks' column is yet another reminding women--not men, no matter what he says, but women--that we can't have it all.

I so agree. That "Oscar curse" meme floating around that lumps Bullock in with other Oscar winners whose marriages or long-term relationships broke up after they won an Oscar -- notice what else they have in common? The list includes Halle Berry, Reese Witherspoon, Charlize Theron, Hilary Swank ... all actresses.

The same thing happened to Harrison Ford, Sean Penn, Nicolas Cage, Anthony Hopkins, Al Pacino, Kevin Costner ... you could draw up an equally long list of actors inflicted with the same so-called "Oscar curse". But oddly enough, no-one does.

Of course in Sean's case his marriage broke up because he used to beat up his wife and she finally had enough.


Paul McCartney seemed to have a pretty darned nice marriage with Linda, one of the all-time best ever, and did even that bring him everlasting happiness? Would he have been more or less happy without his Beatle and Wings and solo experiences? Brooks has no answer... yet provides it anyway.


Brooks is one of the many who have no clue at all how much of their success is due to luck and not to a unique skill set and work ethic. I've got nothing against people being lucky. That's life. But kee-rist, how insufferable is it for one of these Peter Principle proofs to lecture their "inferiors" as if life were a perfect meritocracy. I think George Harrison said it best: What they need's a damn good whacking.

gocart mozart

A more interesting question would be, would David Brooks be willing to lose his left testicle for a Pulitzer Prize?


Whenever I read anything by Brooks, I am reminded of a quote from MacBeth - "It is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing." Except in Brook's case, it isn't "sound and fury" he's full of.

El Jefe

Thanks, as always.

Siren and MaryRC,

Testicle? David Brooks can haz testicles?

More people should quote George, he had things to say, with more economy than John, less schmaltz than Paul,and greater coherence (even in his Hare Krishna period) than Ringo.

This really fals in a subcategory of Lance's "Blowhards" posts, the bit about where gossip and blowhards (blohwardry?) dovetail. David "Attention, People of the Cafeteria! I Mean You No Harm!" Brooks' brand of tweedy Babbitry just dresses up old-fashioned WASP gossip and just-folks tribalism in really crappy sociological clothes. (As Tom Hanks once said to Dan Ackroyd, "now put on your goat leggings and hurry up!") He wrote one faintly witty and sometimes observant book about the Village's liberal cousins (with whom they had shared a dorm room or two in the public and private Ivies, the Seven Sisters, and the like back in the day) and now we're stuck with him. Meh. The Marx Brothers would have the decency to stick him forward stage right in the overcrowded stateroom where we could just watch him make the fool of himself he is, since the type to which he belongs really has its home in that era.


Found this via the Siren. Made my week. That was a stellar answer to a Brooks column so spectacularly stupid that I actually read it twice, hoping that I'd somehow missed an ironic angle somewhere on the way.

I think what struck me as weirdest about Brooks's question was that he seemed to think that Bullock's Oscar was connected causally to James's infidelity. Like it was some unholy deal with the devil: "Tell you what, girlie, I'll give you prize-winning respectability as an actress, but your husband gets to shtup a dozen other loose lasses, and then the media finds out." And so there was Brooks, tut-tutting over this foolish decision of Sandra's. But what will he say to the millions of women whose husbands are running around all over town (and vice versa) who don't have an Oscar to show for it? Really, it makes them seem unusually poor negotiators.

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