my splice column this week is a profound innovation in the op-ed form: a list of lists. this is not who we are as americans! or is it? the only way to know for sure is to do the hard historical research. you could consider it my effort to fulfill the prophetic words of richard rorty.
Those who hope to persuade a nation to exert itself need to remind their country of what it can take pride in. . . . They must tell inspiring stories about episodes and figures in the nation's past - episodes and figures to which the country must remain true. Nations rely on artists and intellectuals to create images of, and to tell stories about, the national past. Competition for political leadership is in part a competition between differing stories about a nation's self-identity, and between differing symbols of its greatness.
that is why i have assembled this pantheon of quintessentially american spielers, liars, inside traders, power-grabbers, bottom-dealers, pugilists, totalitarians, know-nothings, mischief-makers, ego trippers, gropers, spellbinders, role players, and illusionists.
here is a classic expression of american identity from one of my heroes on the list, s.w. erdnase (preface to the expert at the card table).
In offering this book to the public the writer uses no sophistry as an excuse for its existence. The hypocritical cant of reformed (?) gamblers, or whining, mealymouthed pretensions of piety, are not foisted as a justification for imparting the knowledge it contains. To all lovers of card games it should prove interesting, and as a basis of card entertainment it is practically inexhaustible. It may caution the unwary who are innocent of guile, and it may inspire the crafty by enlightenment on artifice. It may demonstrate to the tyro that he cannot beat a man at his own game, and it may enable the skilled in deception to take a post-graduate course in the highest and most artistic branches of his vocation. But it will not make the innocent vicious, or transform the pastime player into a professional; or make the fool wise, or curtail the annual crop of suckers; but whatever the result may be, if it sells it will accomplish the primary motive of the author, as he needs the money.