“I am a Revisionist Historian.” -June 18, 2003

When anyone asks me what I do (though I can’t remember the last time I was in the company of any strangers—that would be people I don’t know—so thoroughly American), I now will answer solemnly, "I am a Revisionist Historian."

I am still working out the job description, but a portion of my responsibilities will be trying to decide which list is longer, the list of things that I do care about or the list of things that I don’t care about. Since reading the Washington Post (or claiming to) is a mainstay of a revisionist historian’s media canon, I noticed that Peter Carlson has written a well-conceived trashing of the ubiquitous journalistic gambit of list making and its creatively challenged practitioners.

Undeterred, I plodded on determined to rid myself of the bile that has been building up as the assault of all that is irrelevant to me starts to pound my senses and sensibilities …

I don’t care about Hilary Clinton or whatever sales records her book is setting. I don’t even care what she has to say about her life. And less (than zero) about anything she and Barbara Walters harmonized about. I do believe my skepticism about her intentions about having her name on a book is warranted. Somehow I think a proximal relationship to the concept of ‘truth’ is what is intended.

I don’t care about Harry Potter (whichever volume this is) or that someone stole nearly eight thousand copies or that a bazillion copies have been pre-sold. Or that Harry has a new mark on his face.

I don’t care about RADAR magazine or Maer Rohan or what a nice guy he is.

So it stands to reason I don’t give a fig for Tina Brown or whatever she is twittering about and wherever she is doing that twittering. And even whom she is twittering with.

I never cared about who was going to design for the space that was once the World Trade Center towers.

Jayson Blair and Stephen Glass, who cares? I don’t. Two callous young twits who are best left to the care of their families, who are no doubt responsible for their minor (so far) sociopathies. That’s correct, blame the families.

When Bob Woodward wrote in the instant-neo-faux-quasi classic Bush at War that Condoleezza Rice went for a ride with The President and Bob in US Pickup Truck Number 1, at the President’s ranch, and never got out for a stroll because she didn’t have the right shoes, I was titillated.

I don’t care about Howell Raines’ demise, and the office pool about who succeeds him is a big yawn. I do have a copy of the 1969 Pulitzer Prize winner’s second book, a novel, Whiskey Man, that I will let go for an ample sum or to a good home.

I don’t care about Charles Moose.

I don’t care what Dave Eggers calls himself or who he has chosen as his agent or what Ian Speigelman thinks of him. Come to think of it, I don’t care about Ian Speigelman either.

I don’t at the moment think about whether bloggers are saving the world though I am sensing a drumbeat for this messianic ambition in the blogging world. I could change my mind about this especially if someone coined a new word for the web-logging thing.

I wish I didn’t care about Roger Clemens getting his 300th or whether Sammy Sosa used a corked bat. But, I do. Oh well.

I don’t care that there are nine Democratic presidential hopefuls (a word almost totally devoid of meaning); in fact, I would wager there are more than nine democratic presidential candidates. I might care about those if some Wizard of News wasn’t already defining the story as some version of the seven dwarves.

And as for the ‘triumphalist babbits’ (that’s what Robert Stone calls them) that are in power in the US government, I continue to wonder how they came upon such a low regard for the citizens of this country and what it will take for those citizens to awaken to the cynical arrogance of their government.

Luckily, this week what I did care about was Tom Franklin’s excellent new novel, Hell at the Breech and Arthur Kempton’s masterpiece of musical history, Bugaloo. And Russ Smith’s idea that there be a magazine called Obituary is the best idea I have heard all week. Maybe there is still life in the old magazine concept. Do you think?

birnbaum in havana

RB in Havana, ’91

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