October 16, 2006

"The world no longer believes rational thought will solve our problems."

That's novelist Caleb Carr's theory for why Yale lawprof Jed Rubenfel's novel "The Interpretation of Murder" is not selling well (despite the publisher's $500,000 publicity campaign and all the free PR reaped from the news that Rubenfeld got an $800,000 advance). In other news, Rubenfeld is trailing badly in the "America's hottest male law school dean" contest. I think these two stories are linked, though. He's already got the $800,000 advance, so no way we're voting for him as hottest dean. That's rational, right?

11 comments:

George said...

“[Sound of wooden match brusquely striking] The world… [Creaking of overstuffed leather chair as overstuffed body settles into it] …no longer believes… [Sound of sucking of well-worn pipestem] …rational thought… [A modest sniff] …will solve our problems… [Sound of thin stream of smoke issuing from between well-sniftered lips and thus being sent in a straight line directly into face of listener, agog].”

tiggeril said...

Has the world ever believed that rational thought will solve our problems? You look back at human history and there's not a whole hell of a lot of rationality to be found. Rationality takes a discipline that not many people have.

JohnF said...

When what threatens people is not susceptible of rational argument, then rational thought will not solve our problems.

Today it is a violent theology, dictated from God. It has been the same many times in the past (see tiggeril, above).

But reason will not persuade various religious terrorists to shelve their nukes when they are acquired.

There is accordingly only a different solution, which, as I have noted here before, we will wait much, much too long to adopt.

Revenant said...

The world no longer believes rational thought will solve our problems

As a counterargument I would point to the remarkable popularity of "CSI"-variety forensic police shows. They may rely on ensemble casts instead of a single brilliant Englishman, but their stories still center around the same principle: the use of reason, by experts, to solve seemingly incomprehensible crimes.

tiggeril said...

Yeah, but then we have the "CSI effect" where juries irrationally think that fictionally rational methods can be applied to real-life situations.

Theo Boehm said...

El sueño de razón produce monstruos.

reader_iam said...

Is it that the world no longer believes in "rational thought," or that it fears a "rationalist heart"?

That's not a position. It's a question, and I've been thinking about that one for a bit. Anyone else?

reader_iam said...
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reader_iam said...

Think of that, if you like, in terms of the "-ist" suffix of which we've become so fond in recent years, for whatever reasons, and on whatever parts.

But not just that.

A question, not a position ... .

Richard Dolan said...

I'm with Theo B (and Goya) on this one. The "world" has never believed more ardently that "rational thought" is the best way to "solve our problems," even if some problems will always remain beyond solution. For pop fiction writers, though, it may be that they think the reading public today prefers the occult and the paranormal. No surprise that Caleb Carr would think so.

I haven't read Rubenfeld's book, but murder mysteries don't appeal much to me. Too formulaic, and usually populated by cardboard characters spouting cliches. It's just amazing that a publisher would fork over such a huge advance for a first novel by a law prof. Fiction by an unknown is hard to sell to a publisher in the best of times. Perhaps Rubenfeld had an uncle in the business. If so, that's a pretty rational business model (at least for Rubenfeld).

TMink said...

Does most of the world acknowledge reason as a valid world view? I wonder.

Trey