Joseph Bottum Articles

Marion Montgomery, 1925-2011

Joseph Bottum on Marion Montgomery
Dec 12, 2011

I was at the clock-repair shop when a friend called with the news that Marion had slipped away—Marion Montgomery, the great Southern critic and teacher. I was dropping off my grandfather’s broken watch when the call came. I was standing at the counter, holding a run-down timepiece, when my friend told me. And the clocks on the wall ticked, and ticked, and tocked. 

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The Good Book

How the King James Version came to be.
Dec 05, 2011

The King James Bible—the Authorized Version of Holy Scripture, dedicated to James I as “principal mover and author”—is not really a triumph of translation. Not, at least, if perfect accuracy and re-creation of the original narrative voice are the proper goals of translation.

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Unchanging Science

Among other things the global warming crusaders got wrong: skepticism is a virtue, not a vice.
Nov 28, 2011

In retrospect, we probably should have paid more attention when, around 2005, activists shifted their primary vocabulary from global warming to climate change to describe the impact of human beings on this biosphere we call the Earth. Both phrases had been around for a while, of course. Global warming got its modern start back in 1975, when the journal Science published a feature asking, “Are We on the Brink of a Pronounced Global Warming?” In one form or another, climate change has been in use since the physicist Joseph Fourier wrote of the greenhouse effect in the 1820s.

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Kurt’s Cradle

Chronicling the rise and fall of the novelist-celebrity.
Nov 21, 2011

Catch a wave, and you’re sittin’ on top of the world.

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The Cocktail-Party Test

Joseph Bottum: Who now reads?
Oct 31, 2011

"I don’t read fiction,” Billy Hunter proudly told sports reporters this month. “I only read stuff I can learn something from.” What a line, from the head of the NBA Players Association. It’s the kind of thing I used to treasure—except that I’ve begun to realize just how often I hear something similar. “I think of myself as a true reader,” a political activist told me the other day, but it turns out she meant only that she follows a few mystery writers and reads a lot of new books about politics.

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Small Perfections

Joseph Bottum, impatient perfectionist
Sep 19, 2011

Way down in what passes for my soul, I’ve always felt an impatience—a kind of ungenerous demand for efficiency, immediacy, and speed. Add to that the small tremor I’ve always had in my hands, and I may be the worst painter in the world today. 

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The Motley Fool

Sep 05, 2011

So, the vice president goes to China—and if that sounds like the beginning of a bad comedy routine, it’s because our current vice president has made it one. The man is a walking pratfall, a clown of the tongue-tied, stumbling kind, and only the media’s determined effort to shield the Obama administration from laughter has kept Joe Biden’s miscues, misunderstandings, and mispronouncements from becoming our long-running national joke.

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California Joins Popular Vote Charade

7:15 AM, Aug 09, 2011

On Monday, August 8, Governor Jerry Brown finally signed a bill the California state legislature had passed in July—a bill that binds California to “National Popular Vote” (NPV). Which is to say, to the committing of all its electoral college votes in a presidential election to the winner of the nation’s popular vote. In other words, regardless of which candidate carried California, the electors are directed to vote for the candidate who carries the nation.

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Let There Be Light, Sickly Blue Light

Goodbye, incandescent bulb. Salvation comes from the compact fluorescent lamp.
Aug 01, 2011

In the beginning, there was a glade. A green and foresty place, a meadowy clearing in the great big woods. The robins called from branch to branch. A laughing stream wove gently through the dell. A rabbit hopped through the long grass, bright with morning dew. All was well, and all manner of things were well—until, one day, the evil came.

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The Way We Fly Now

Joseph Bottum, Friendly Flyer
Jul 25, 2011

The man squeezing his way through to the window seat smells of manure. Not a bad, rotten smell, exactly. Just that faint, fresh odor that farmers can’t ever quite get rid of. “He smells funny,” announces the little girl waiting in the aisle, and everyone stares carefully down at the airplane’s industrial-blue carpet, pretending they didn’t hear.

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Catholic Power, Catholic Morals

Notre Dame drops trespassing charges against pro-lifers.
May 30, 2011

Early this month came the news that Notre Dame has agreed, at last, to drop the trespassing charges it had been pressing against the protesters who marched on its campus two years ago. The pro-life protesters. At a Catholic school.

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Little Miss Liddell

The strange case of Dr. Dodgson and Mr. Carroll.
Apr 04, 2011

The Alice Behind Wonderland

by Simon Winchester

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The War on Strunk and White

Joseph Bottum, anti-anti-Strunk & White
Mar 28, 2011


Be clear, they said, and, by God, clarity is what they got. Sentences that zinged by like bullets—bang, a shot rings out, and bang, the man at the bar with a whiskey sour slumps over dead, and bang, the lights go out, leaving nothing much to notice, except the screaming. 

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Church Social

A personal view of faith turned inside out.
Mar 14, 2011

The Spirit of Vatican II

A History of Catholic Reform

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Much to Atone For

Bernard Nathanson, 1926-2011
Mar 07, 2011

Back-alley butchers. That was the catchphrase. And 10,000 women a year killed in illegal abortions, that was another. Coat hangers were what those butchers used to perform their grisly trade, and the only thing American women wanted was medical safety on the rare occasions when they made the agonized choice to abort their fetus. Not their unborn child. Fetus was the more scientific word, the true medical term, and besides, the argument wasn’t really about abortion. It was about choice​—​and who could be against that?

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Duke Snider, 1926–2011

10:00 AM, Feb 28, 2011

Duke Snider is gone, slipping away at age 84. Most fans today never saw him play. How could they? He retired all the way back in 1964, and even that was after a pair of lost final seasons: first with the Mets, which was a joke, and then with the Giants, which, for a Dodger, is almost a sacrilege. Especially for a Brooklyn Dodger.

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