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… “Afghan human rights activist, ex-minister and burka opponent Sima Samar is …seen as a possible winner” of this year’s Nobel Peace prize. This would be spectacular publicity for the effort to get women and children out from under this grotesque garment.

Plus of course UD‘s beloved Don DeLillo is again being shortlisted for the literature prize. He and Philip Roth always show up together on this list.

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I thought of DeLillo’s novel Mao II tonight while reading again – for the first time in forty or so years – Catcher in the Rye. Almost at the end of that novel, Holden Caulfield has a heart-to-heart with one of his teachers, the very smart, alcoholic, Mr Antolini. Antolini recognizes Caulfield’s intelligence, sensitivity, moral rigidity, and self-destructiveness. He understands how the trauma of Holden’s beloved brother’s death has set on him on a nihilistic, existence-loathing path. He also sees how this rage, combined with Caulfield’s restless intellect, could make him some sort of dangerous fanatic. Here’s one of the things he says to Holden:

“Something else an academic education will do for you. If you go along with it any considerable distance, it’ll begin to give you an idea what size mind you have. What it’ll fit and, maybe, what it won’t. After a while, you’ll have an idea what kind of thoughts your particular size mind should be wearing. For one thing, it may save you an extraordinary amount of time trying on ideas that don’t suit you, aren’t becoming to you. You’ll begin to know your true measurements and dress your mind accordingly.”

This know-yourself haberdashery put me in mind of a very similar piece of advice DeLillo’s hero, the totally Salingeresque writer Bill Gray, recalls having read and heard growing up:

He remembered the important things, how his father wore a hat called the Ritz, gray with a black band, a raw edge and a snap brim, and someone was always saying “Measure your head before ordering” which was a line in the Sears Roebuck catalogue…”

As he’s dying, Bill repeats this phrase to himself.

Know your true measurements and dress your mind accordingly. Measure your head before ordering.

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