“As the majority of ghostwriters sign nondisclosure agreements, it’s impossible to know exactly how many books are ghostwritten each year. The president of Arbor Books, which furnishes ghostwriters, told us, “From what I’ve seen, I’d imagine a billion dollar industry.” The president of a similar firm estimated that at least 25% of the New York Times nonfiction bestseller list is ghostwritten and that when a celebrity or politician is involved, “It’s nearly 100%.”
Shlomo’s English was good. He told me about the Dead Sea Scrolls. He told me about Brazilian agronomy. He told me about Joseph Stiglitz.
Shlomo said, “I ask myself, who are the wisest people in the world? The answer is: the Jews. This is well-known.
“And who are the wisest Jews? A moment’s reflection reveals that Russian Jews are the wisest.
“Next we must discover who are the wisest of these Russian Jews. And the answer comes back, clearly the people of Odessa.
“So who are the wisest Jews in Odessa? The members of the old synagogue.
“It’s plain to see, then, that the wisest man in the world must be Rabbi Loew, chief rabbi of the old synagogue of Odessa. But he’s such an idiot.”
And Amatsia said, “My brain is fucking.” He meant his memory was going bad. Asked for an example, he explained that in the army he had once carried a dead man on his back for two days and now he couldn’t remember the man’s name. He shook his head. “Fucking,” he said.”
“That we’ve gotten to this point is astonishing to me because basically in winning its victory, in seeing that Wall come down and seeing the former Stalinist state’s journey towards our way of thinking in terms of markets or being vulnerable, you would have thought that we would have learned what works. Instead we’ve descended into what can only be described as greed. This is just greed. This is an inability to see that we’re all connected, that the idea of two Americas is implausible, or two Australias, or two Spains or two Frances. Societies are exactly what they sound like. If everybody is invested and if everyone just believes that they have “some”, it doesn’t mean that everybody’s going to get the same amount. It doesn’t mean there aren’t going to be people who are the venture capitalists who stand to make the most. It’s not each according to their needs or anything that is purely Marxist, but it is that everybody feels as if, if the society succeeds, I succeed, I don’t get left behind. And there isn’t a society in the west now, right now, that is able to sustain that for all of its population.”
“The angels appeared to his mother and predicted that the son whom she would conceive would become the greatest the stars had ever seen. He was so great that he even forgave the crimes of his greatest enemies and shook brotherly hands with those who had plotted against his life. His name was Lincoln and the country in which he lived is called America, which is so far away that if a youth should journey to reach it he would be an old man when he arrived. Tell us of that man.’”
“At the time of this writing, there are sixteen thousand two hundred and seventy-seven days remaining in my life. I know this because an app I have installed on my phone tells me so. I downloaded it about a week ago, back when I still had sixteen thousand two hundred and eighty-four days left to live, a number that strikes me in retrospect as an embarrassment of riches, days-wise. By the time you read this, I will have even fewer days left to live. Depending on the turnaround time for this piece, I could be down to a number as low as sixteen thousand two hundred and seventy. I’m running out of days here, is what the app is telling me, in its bluntly literal way.”
“If the books I have read have helped to form me, then probably nobody else who ever lived has read exactly the same books, all the same books and only the same books, as me. So just as my genes and the soul within me make me uniquely me, so I am the unique sum of the books I have read. I am my literary DNA.”
“Indeed, the all-inclusive facilities of Google, Apple, Facebook and their planned expansions are a precise reflection of the spirit of Silicon Valley — a spirit that is an intriguing paradox: It combines a disciplined domination of the market with the freedom of the creative hippie artist. In the 1990s, media theorists Richard Barbook and Andy Cameron coined the term “California ideology” to describe this phenomenon. “This new faith has emerged from a bizarre fusion of the cultural bohemianism of San Francisco with the hi-tech industries of Silicon Valley,” they wrote. This has created a peculiar ideological mixture of right-wing and left-wing, ultra-individualistic and ultra-capitalistic beliefs, ranging from liberalism to anti-statism.”