Mr. Pennhollow is the symbol of something that Americans, 
with their instinctive faith in human perfectibility, have always 
refused to acknowledge. The presence in the world of evil that 
is not accidental or caused by defective environment but is achieved 
by deliberate choice over good; evil that wears the calm and 
self-assurance of the saint.

                     Malcolm Cowley
If there is a dirty secret in American life, it is this: The 
real unifying  force in our national cultural and political life, 
beyond skirmishes over ideology, is white identity masked 
as universal, neutral and therefore quintessentially American.
Michael Eric Dyson in The New York Times Sunday Review  
(December 18,2016).
Reviewing The Angelic Avengers by Pierre Andrezei 
(pseudonym of t Baroness Karen Blixen)
The American attitude, man for man, and woman for
woman is coarse, greedy, calculating and insincere. The
intention of every individual; is to get as much as he can. 
And his desire when he gets it is to make as great a show 
as possible in order to belittle and make insignificant the lives 
and aspirations of those whom he finds about him. No, this 
is not a class condition. It is the American temperament.
Theodore Dreiser

    In my country, instead of asking the artist what makes children  
commit suicide, they go to the Chairman of General Motors and 
ask him. This is true. If you make a million dollars you know all 
the answers.
William Faulkner. Quoted in “William Faulkner in Japan” 
by Gay Wilson Allen
Modern America is a society in which a growing share of income 
and wealth is concentrated in the hands of a small number of people 
and these have huge political influence –in the early stages of the
2016 presidential campaign, around half the contributions came 
from fewer than 200 wealthy families.
Paul Krugman. The New York Times (January 1, 2016)
  America is the only country where a significant proportion 
of the population believes professional wrestling is real but 
the moon landing was faked.
David Letterman
Aloness is his (EDWARD HOPPER’S) great theme, symbolizing 
America: insecure selfhoods in a country that is only abstractly
 a nation. “E Pluribus unum,” a magnificent ideal, thuds on “unum”
 every day throughout the land. Only law –we’re a polity of lawyers—
confers unity on the United States, which sensibly be a Balkans 
of regional sovereignties had the  Civil War not been so awful as 
to remove that option…
Peter Schjeldahl. “Apart: Edward Hopper’s Solitude” in
 The New Yorker (June 8 & 15, 2020).
It would be hard to find a neater emblem of
Capitalist America – three minutes of Chekhov
 taken  every day like a pill will strengthen your 
empathy muscles. Science proves it,
James Wood in his PEN/HEMINGWAY Keynote address.
America is a nation of liars, and for that reason science fiction has a special claim to be our national literature, as the art form best adapted to telling the lies we like to hear and to pretend we believe.
                  Thomas Disch
By Louis Phillips
January 2, 1863. It was reported yesterday morning
on this Network  that President Lincoln supposedly 
issued a Proclamation that promised to free the
Slaves. Today, President Lincoln said that he proclaimed 
no such thing. He says his words were taken out
of context (the Civil War) and that he threatens to sue 
Fake News reporters for libel.  Honest Abe will appear 
on Sean Hannity’s Show  tonight at 8 to set the record
September 23, 1918 – Sean Hannity today declared that
The so called Spanish Flu Pandemic is a hoax, a
plan set in motion by liberal politicians to make the
the current President  and his Senate supporters look 
like a decisive leaders and thus make Democrats invulnerable 
in the upcoming Congressional election. Fox News is the 
only station to see through the plot to prevent Republicans
 from gaining seats in the Senate.
The so called Flu is nothing more than a common cold.
Senator Warren G, Harding will be on Laura Ingraham’s
Midnight Special at 10 A.M.
November 1 1918 – Sean Hannity says that he never
called the Spanish Flu a hoax. In fact, he said, he
suspected right away that it was a Pandemic.” I knew
It before the President did,” he declared.
For all the New Yorkers who fight for the city’s soul
Every day in ways large and small and who never
Forget what a city is.
Jeremiah Moss. Vanishing New York: How a Great City Lost
Its Soul  (New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 2017)


  1. Thank you for this installment of BITS & PIECES. I enjoyed them all, even those that I disagree with. (You have a knack for making people think…even me.)

    I’m not familiar with Mr. Disch or his work. Do you recommend any of his titles? Of course, I think he’s kidding when he suggests that sci fi is more adapted to telling lies than other genres. There are plenty of lies in Shakespeare’s historical plays.

    On the other hand, there are some staggeringly powerful truths in sci fi. One example: The characterization of the Terminator contains more truth about robots than any nonfiction essay or book. And “The Twilight Zone”—truth to the hundredth power.

    But probably Disch was just teasing us.

    As for America being a nation of liars: I have quite a few friends who—as far as I can tell—never lie. Are they the exceptions? I doubt it. Maybe the majority of people lie now and then, but I wouldn’t characterize this nation by a majority. I look to the best. And I think that America has many truth tellers.

    * * *

    I continue to struggle to rid myself of the clippings, manuscripts, and other crap that I’ve accumulated over the decades. Have you finished your “cleaning up” chore? Have you got any advice—e.g., should I simply bag the shit without looking at it and toss it out. Maybe I’d lose the seeds for a great American screenplay, but maybe that’s not such a big loss. I welcome your thoughts.

    On a happier note, today I played basketball for the first time with my 13-year-old grandson. The sheltering-in-place has been tough for him, given that his dad’s in such a bad post-stroke condition. I was able to get 2% of my shots through the hoop—not good enough to get me a tryout in the NBA. Dermott did better—hitting about 25% of his shots. I think if we continue to practice, he’ll be OK. Me? I’m aiming to get to 5%.




  2. Dear Mur:
    The main thing about you playing basketball with your grandson is to walk off the court
    without pulling any muscles or breaking a leg or an arm. NO INJURIES is a victory.



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