The Michael Lewis Book

“The Undoing Project: A Friendship That Changed Our Minds”

I’m pretty sure most buyers never finished this book.

So why did I?

Maybe it’s fandom, I’m a Michael Lewis believer. He writes well about subjects I find interesting and he’s not self-aggrandizing and thin-skinned like Malcolm Gladwell, whom I’ve lost faith in. But both oftentimes write about science, when neither has any true expertise in the field. And after reading Clayton Christensen’s latest tome I’ve realized you’re much better off going to the source, only oftentimes the source can think, has experience, but can’t write.

Maybe it’s because of my Kindle policy. If I buy it, I read it. My inbox fills up constantly with print supporters, they’re even more vociferous than CD supporters, maybe not foaming at the mouth quite like vinyl supporters. And that’s part of what “The Undoing Project” is about, the investment the old guard has in debunking new theories. I got an email from a friend in Bora Bora telling me she had nothing to read, that the book she’d brought was boring her. I told her I was lying on my bed reading about a new book on my iPhone and went on Amazon and bought it and started reading it right away on my Kindle and was engrossed. Funny how the people addicted to their mobile devices can’t stray from hardcover books. Then there’s a publishing industry that won the war with Amazon by pricing digital copies almost the same as physical ones, and that just doesn’t feel right. And that’s another thing in “The Undoing Project,” how emotions, however irrational, creep into decision-making. If I had the hardcover I could lend it, it could sit on my shelf forever, even though lending can be rare and we end up weighted down by our possessions.

Maybe it’s because of Middlebury. I vividly remember Professor Andrews saying in anthropology freshman year that we were never going to discuss the reading in class, if we’d gotten this far and had trouble comprehending the book we had bigger problems. That was what Middlebury was about, reading. You’d sit in the dorm lounge on sunny afternoons for hours, poring through books you had little interest in, because you knew you’d have to expound upon them in the test, and expound you did, there were no objective exams at Middlebury, only subjective ones, essays, three hours long. So I know how to read a boring book and soldier on. Is this an asset? I oftentimes wonder. We hear all the time about pivoting, but I stay the course, I’m starting to think to my detriment, sometimes you just have to give up.

Like I’m sure most of the purchasers of “The Undoing Project” did.

But the reviews were so good!

Ever since Michiko Kakutani raved about “The Revenge of Analog: Real Things and Why They Matter,” I’ve doubted her opinion. Kinda like Steve Bannon. Who wondered why no one in the media that got the election so wrong lost their job. Because it’s a club, they circle the wagons, and the press keeps doing its job, reporting what it sees as the truth not realizing it didn’t work against Trump yet and it probably never will. And then you’ve got the lefties saying to throw money at the newspapers. Now I get three, but I will never look at them the same way since they got the election wrong. It’s kind of like a spouse lying to you outright. There should at least be consequences. And the truth is Trump and his cronies will not be beaten in the press or at protests but in the election booth. Like the Tea Party the left wing needs to line up Congressional candidates far to the left of Hillary, closer to Bernie, who excite the younger generation and will get people out to vote. But so far, the left has learned nothing from Trump’s election, it’s painful to watch, how the best and the brightest have their heads in the sand. And none of the reviews said “The Undoing Project” was nearly unreadable, they all focused on the bond between the two protagonists, but the truth is this is a story of psychological theory, do you care about that? I can’t say that I do very much, and I would have liked it better if it was a ten page article in “The New Yorker.”

But the media buys the pitch of the publisher and then the public buys the book and no one reads it. But it appears a best-seller. Once upon a time Amazon published how far people got in books, they’ve got that data (yes, you people afraid of Alexa can feel good about your position), but publishers don’t want that information out, certainly not authors. Then it would be like the music business, where we can see on YouTube and Spotify what people are actually listening to, and it oftentimes doesn’t square with sales, never mind the media spin. Hip-hop is even bigger on streaming services. Chew on that for a while.

And then there’s the curious case of “All The Light We Cannot See,” one of the best sellers of the last half decade. I was intrigued at first, but it took me a month to plow through it, because of the writing style. I don’t think that many people finished this book either. More than “The Undoing Project,” but… You see academics and critics laud that which squares with their principles. And if it cuts like butter and it’s easily readable it’s considered pop trash and pooh-poohed. But accessibility is a virtue. Anthony Doerr has won a slew of prizes, but I think they’d be better off going to a more populist writer, then again, the committees don’t want to acknowledge that work. The lunatics have taken over the asylum, and they want to keep it that way. You do know that prizes are a scam, that it’s a club and if you’re not a member the odds of getting one are almost nonexistent. But I will say Doerr’s book does qualify as art. The sense of loss and the suffering and consequences of war and the power of radio… They’re all in there. Funny how we live in a world where emotions are pushed under the rug, when emotions are the only thing worth living for.

So, if you’re gonna read one of these books, read “All The Light We Cannot See.”

As for “The Undoing Project”…

It starts off with an NBA anecdote, you’re riveted, but then it moves on to economics and psychology. You’re waiting for the NBA to return, but it never does. There are detours to a hospital in Canada, but most of the book is dry psychological theory, very important, but written in a fashion and at such length that unless you majored in the subject your eyes will glaze over.

The truth is people don’t act rationally. And economists thought they did. Amos and Danny proved them wrong. Over and over and over again.

We’d like to read the application of their theories, but mostly we just get theories.

And a bit of their interpersonal relationship, but if you’re reading this book for that you’re gonna throw it against the wall.

So what I’m saying here is we have a fact problem in the left wing world. We don’t question our media sources, we accept as a given everything put forth to us. We feel proud that we own unreadable books. We don’t look back and evaluate our choices. We’re overconfident and proud of it.

Not that I’m lauding the down and out Trump voters who don’t read at all and just dig in their heels as they vote for policies against their interest.

But first and foremost we must change us.

When you see people with a house full of books, ask how many they’ve read. Then pull one and quiz them about it. They like showing off, why else build a collection/monument to themselves?

Question authority.

Most learning takes place outside the classroom. Some of the dumbest, least analytical people have college degrees. Find an interest and pursue it.

Know that if you gain traction, if you break taboos, people will come after you, and no matter how much you fight back, you can never shut them up, this is what Amos and Danny realized, it drove Amos nuts.

We live in very dark times. My head is spinning from the inanity of the wall and the support of pipelines and dumb economic policies, but not only must we complain, we must put our faith in leaders and support them. Who is carrying the Democratic torch? Looks like no one at this point. We need someone to be our mouthpiece, and we’ve got to work the refs just like the right, call them on their b.s. when they attack our leader(s).

So it’s no wonder people turn to books.

Just don’t turn to this one.

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