Wednesday, September 17, 2003
Towards a Semi-Literate Society: Courtesy Amazon.com
Frequent Amazon customers know it has many cool features, including the ability for civilians to offer book reviews and for these same individuals to create annotated, thematic reading "guides."
Where would the state of intellectual debate be without engaged, self-taught, non-accredited, non-tenured, but entirely opinionated people like Scott Belhorn?
Because Belhorn seems to have put together about a zillion reading lists with comments on each book on the list (sometimes numbering thirty or more books), the first thing that comes to mind is "what kind of a job does he have that lets you read so many books?" As it turns out, Belhorn had been an inner-city social worker, then worked in payment processing for a large Internet company, and currently attends law school hoping to set up a solo practice. Not only do we need more people like Belhorn, we probably need more lawyers like him.
One of the more interesting lists is his "people I really despise" guide. Belhorn's an equal-opportunity hater, lambasting Bill Maher, Bill O'Reilly, Geraldo Rivera, G. Gordon Liddy, Oliver North, Michel Foucault, and William Kunstler in equal doses. He's no fan of Malcolm X, either, nor of Thomas Jefferson: "Yes, that's right. The author of the Declaration was a miserable human being -- slaveholder, extravagent spender, Jacobin radical, states-rights southerner, proud atheist, hypocrite, and double-dealer. In short, a wretch."
His "people I really admire" guide could use work. It's much shorter, and includes two presidents and a pope.
Another guide, one that held considerable promise, also needs fleshing out, perhaps in the form of an article (looks like it would be a long article, like the long ones in Atlantic Monthly you can't get through), is Belhorn's "Tired of Baby-Boomer Self-Righteousness?"
His "Movies for People Age 20-39" also held promise, but dude, putting White Men Can't Jump in the same list as sex, lies, and videotape, Tuff Turf, and Heathers is a little bit strange.
Anyway, back to the question of "what kind of a job do you have to have..." ... is it possible that one could actually make a decent supplementary income just creating these guides and generating referral income from Amazon book sales? Now that would be a strange job indeed, but not unlike what a lot of online opportunists are up to these days.
And now back to, um, work.
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