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Wine Review:
Cristom Vineyards
Mt. Jefferson Cuvee 2009 Pinot Noir

Wine: Mt. Jefferson Cuvee 2009 Pinot Noir by Cristom Vineyards Region: Willamette Valley (Oregon) Price: $29.99 Aside from important and serious discussions about worldly matters, Ludovici Club members must reserve […]

Wine: Mt. Jefferson Cuvee 2009 Pinot Noir by Cristom Vineyards

Region: Willamette Valley (Oregon)

Price: $29.99

Aside from important and serious discussions about worldly matters, Ludovici Club members must reserve time to sit back and enjoy the lighter banter brought on by the joys of consuming alcohol.

To this end, let us travel to the Willamette Valley of Oregon in the United States.  Nestled to the south, east and west by mountain ranges and to the north by the Columbia River, the Williamette Valley is home to several hundred wineries.  Given its landscape as a valley and the resulting relative coolness, the wineries are well suited to grow the quickly ripening pinot noir grape.

For a 2009 vintage selection, Cristom Vineyards Mt. Jefferson Cuvee 2009 has a beautiful nose.  Unlike aged wines with deep blackberry and purple hues, Cristom’s pinot noir has a clean and illuminatingly cranberry red appearance.  To the nose, the rich smell of spice and red raspberry excite you to take the first sip. The body has remarkable structure, with a warmth that sings to you, coupled with bright flavors of the red raspberry and even a hint of black raspberry on your palette.  It finishes strong, not too dry, but with a bouquet that entices you to take the next sip.

Pinot Noir’s are not known for long shelf lives, so I recommend consuming this 2009 vintage within the next 10 years.  Cristom Vineyards has been a consistent brand in my wine cache.  The 2009 Mt. Jefferson Cuvee reinforces my opinion that this winery’s selections will remain in my collection.

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The Encounter as Reminiscence (A Review of ‘Encounters’ by Paul Gottfried)

Last year, ISI Books released the quasi-autobiographical book Encounters: My Life with Nixon, Marcuse and Other Friends and Teachers by Professor Paul Gottfried. I say ‘quasi’ because it is not a cut-and-dry autobiography. The acknowledged pater familias of the current incarnation of the paleoconservative movement has written something which is not so much an extended treatment of his life as such, but rather tracing exactly what it says on the cover — the extraordinary people he has encountered throughout his life. What he shows, through what he admits was a difficult selection of some subjects to the detriment of others, is the trajectory which passes through these great coordinates. From the outset, he attempts to stress that this work is, if you like, a detailed treatment of remarkable people and events which played a part in an otherwise unremarkable life.

I finally read Encounters at the beginning of this year. The period during which I had set aside time to do so, along with the tone of the book itself, made this a fairly leisurely reading. This review article benefits from the time taken on this first reading, as well as from a subsequent (and much quicker) second reading. Like any good meal, Encounters should be digested slowly and properly.

An illuminative and responsible review should ask the question: ‘What marks this book [in our case, Encounters] as distinct from other biographical writings?’ The answer is largely, if not wholly and simply, the author’s style. In his writing, as in conversation, Gottfried is very natural, relaxed and easy. There is an apparent effortlessness to his writing which Encounters best typifies. In this book, he delves into anecdotes and his characteristic digressions which, despite being such, never detract from the storytelling or its balanced pace. Gottfried, albeit a tenured professor, never lectures from on high or commands his reader ex cathedra. Rather, he speaks to the reader. He relates the mutually distinct experiences he has of the book’s different subjects. The writer himself seems to function merely as the locus of Erfahrung or continuous experience. Where some writers try to relate (certain pictures of) themselves through the conduit of an autobiography, he instead treats himself, where he stood at the time, as a conduit through which each person he portrays becomes, to a greater or lesser extent, miraculously accessible.

In a way, Encounters is a collection of surreal stories, but their rewardingly mundane and authentic flavour is undeniable. The people he writes about are human, with all the ingrained foibles and delicate virtues that entails. (Encounters is affectionate, but far from mere hagiography.) Part of Gottfried’s mastery of this slightly-out-of-genre piece is the way in which he is able to capture the all-too-human aspects of his encounters with others. It is worthwhile to note at this point that the title of the book is very important. Gottfried does not merely describe ‘events’, as ‘objective’ historians are wont to do; beyond such dry demonstrations, he relates genuine encounters — that is, his own unique experiences of equally unique people. His subjectivity augments, rather than limits, the historical pursuit.

Gottfried’s introduction, a preparation for the book, sets the tone. What we are given is a series of memoirs tied loosely (but deftly) together with a thread of intellectual (auto)biography.

The first chapter, Apam (meaning ‘My Father’), is an intensely personal portait of Gottfried’s father. One might sense that he strives to be as even-handed in this depiction (objectivity per se is neither possible nor desirable in this sort of work); and the spirit of fairness shines through — albeit shining through his obvious respect for his apja. This chapter perhaps provides the bedrock of the book — even as it describes how the bedrock of Gottfried’s character was formed.

Chapter Two is Gottfried’s recollection of university life. It’s arguably the closest which he comes to cut-and-dry autobiography in the whole book. Even then, it appears to be in the book far more to tie the memoirs together than to self-aggrandize. It also informs a fair amount of what is said in the chapters which follow. Certain enjoyable and enlightening digressions later in the book refer back to what is covered in this chapter. In a very important sense, the second chapter is the bridge from Chapter One (broadly speaking, his childhood) to the rest of his life.

Perhaps the more interesting passages of a scholarly (and, indeed, more than scholarly) bent, are those about the Marxists, former Marxists and merely nominal Marxists whom Paul Gottfried has known over the years. Some of these stand out very clearly, given the stylistically supple treatment which Gottfried achieves throughout Encounters. It is perhaps because we are often the blindest to our own behaviour. Encounters, in places, is an effort (perhaps unintended) to fulfil our unfulfillable wish ‘To see oursels as ithers see us’, in the words of Burns. Gottfried paints life-like pictures of supposed Marxists who, in an almost comical sense, seem to be the last to know that they are not destined for Marxism.

One particularly startling example of this is his discussion of Paul Piccone as a thinker. Despite differing with Piccone on details of opinion, Gottfried lays out these details fairly. Few writers these days can argue for a position, without making it either a straw man or a badly thought-out closing argument some lawyer might insincerely give to dazzle a jury. Paul Gottfried deftly avoids such traps. His exposition of the ideas so passionately articulated by the Telos editor/publisher seem to express them in the best voice possible. In fact, Piccone’s opinions are laid out in such a way that I could relate to them while reading. It seems that in the debate over the merits of bourgeois civilization, I would be inclined toward Piccone, although I substantially agree with Professor Gottfried on a swathe of political and cultural issues. In any case, this was one of the most enjoyable parts to read, of a wholly enjoyable book. One might be left wondering whether or not it was one of the most enjoyable parts for Gottfried to write.

After all, in this book, he writes comparatively little about himself.

One gets the impression as one reads that Professor Gottfried is a humble man — even self-effacing. This is an accurate impression. His humble style of writing is not a façade which the good Herr Professor affects for an audience. There is no deception involved. His resistance to praise — and conspicuous lack of self-praise — is a startling exception to La Rochefoucauld’s maxim that such resistance is indicative of the wish to be praised twice. I have both read Professor Gottfried and met him. In correspondence and in the flesh, the surreal sincerity of his humility is one of the very first things I noticed about him. In his published articles and books, I find that he is not as explicitly opinionated as one might expect from one who has defined (and even named) the political movement to which he still contributes. Perhaps this is because, as he says in the book, he was forced into the kind of political, polemical writing for which he is best known. He is not being trite when he implies that his political interests are largely borne of a more fundamental interest in intellectual consistency.

This leads inevitably to my next point.

The only failing of Encounters has nothing to do with the book itself. There is nothing wrong with what he writes — but rather with what he fails to add in. It seems that Gottfried fails to give himself credit where it is due. He leaves out the importance of his own contribution to the encounters which he describes. Nevertheless, the reader can almost feel the vivacity of these contributions emanating from the pages, even as he focuses on the subjects of the book. This is due, of course, to the humility which is mentioned above. This is a quality which he displays to a fault. So, the shortcoming of Encounters is merely that it is not a different book. However, one can pursue this to a reductio ad absurdum — that being written any differently would destroy both the focus and the consistency of the book, two things which are important to Gottfried. Also, since this quality is per accidens — and the most tenuous sort of accidental quality — one must feel bad for pointing it out. Therefore, this is no shortcoming at all. Rather, it is precisely the strength of Encounters that it is not another book. The ‘negative dialectic’ of this supposed failing will surely please Gottfried, as one familiar with Hegel and as the supposed “right-wing exponent of the Frankfurt School” (which is how Gottfried encapsulates David Gordon’s “amusing” misrepresentation of him).

We see Gottfried the historian at work, too. In a somewhat surprising way, Encounters displays his mastery as a historian more clearly than some of his straightforward academic-historical work. This is not because those works somehow lack something, but because Encounters has something which supererogates the ordinary duties of historical writing. Nor does it wax hagiographic, as I have already said. The book captures the kind of subjective vividness one would expect from the likes of Jacob Burckhardt, only with the added intensity which comes with Gottfried having personally known his subjects. In this sense (and many others), Encounters is an astounding success for what it is intended to be.

The choice of men to whom the pages are devoted is, in a word, fascinating. A rather remarkable aspect of this book is that — besides the more esteemed and, yes, famous figures discussed (e.g. Marcuse and Nixon, respectively) — it contains fair and lengthy discussion of a few thinkers who, I fear, might soon be forgotten. Such a sad fate would be nothing short of inexorable, but for Paul Gottfried’s conscientious intervention.

Furthermore, Encounters itself is a perfect example of why we should not forget Paul Gottfried. Far from it, we must learn from him all that we can. We must realise what he means personally to those of us who know him, as a compagnon du voyage, and what he means to our ‘movement’, so to speak, as it stands today, in his capacity as its godfather, its mentor and still, undeniably, its foremost intellectual.

Encounters is a fruitful read. Those who don’t have the pleasure of knowing Paul Gottfried or even being familiar with his other works will nevertheless benefit richly from what this book says; and those of us who do, on the other hand, will benefit from its allusions to what he has imparted to us. Supposing I recommend only one book to read over a couple of days this Summer, it would indubitably be this fine offering from this fine thinker.

Encounters: My Life with Nixon, Marcuse, and Other Friends and Teachers is published by ISI and has been available to purchase since 2009. It can be found in hardcover via its Amazon.com listing or the one on Amazon.co.uk, as well as from various other good booksellers. It’s well worth the price.

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