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Newcity Lit recommends I Must Not Think Bad Thoughts

By Martin Northway
Newcity Lit

Dery_Bad coverIn the classic TV series “The Honeymooners,” sewer worker Norton (Art Carney) has taken up bird watching and, with binoculars around his neck, shares a park bench with his friend, the bus driver Kramden (Jackie Gleason). Kramden wants to know why anyone would take up bird watching.

“Why shouldn’t we watch birds?” Norton responds. “They watch us, don’t they?”

Norton spots—“by Jove!”—a Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, and remarks they’ve never been seen in New York. He starts making a note for the birding society. Kramden asks sneeringly, What makes you think they’re going to believe you?

Hmmm. Norton writes and recites: “Bird seen: Yellow-bellied Sapsucker,” then with a wink, “Place seen:..” (pause) “Albuquerque, New Mexico”!

In a post-postmodern era of 24/7 news coverage and “watchers” in broadcast and Internet media telling us what we should think about what we’re watching, an observer like Mark Dery finds American culture a target-rich environment. Homing in on hypocrisy and flimsy logic, in his essay collection “I Must Not Think Bad Thoughts” he names names but has no hesitation about naming places, either. With an eagle’s eye for Emperor’s Clothes of whatever plumage, he dresses down the culprits, but beware: your feathers may be next.

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