Review: The Story Of My Assassins, by Tarun J. Tejpal

“It cannot be too widely known,” LJK Setright used to say, “that Setright does not indulge in correspondence.” While I am a long-time reader and admirer of Mr. Setright, I cannot share his placid commitment to a diode-esque communication with my own commenters. If you ask me a question, I will most likely answer. If you’re looking for a quarrel, then I’ll probably be your huckleberry. And if you recommend a book for me to read, I will make an effort to check it out.

Such was the case when CJinSD recommended Tarun Tejpal’s The Story Of My Assassins. Mr. Tejpal is a journalist and muckraker (in the complimentary sense of the word) who has been named to “India’s 50 Most Powerful People” thanks to his founding of Tehelka, a website that specializes in undercover “sting” investigations.

The Story Of My Assassins follows a sort of reverse-Mary Sue version of Tejpal. Instead of being famously successful and widely known, the narrator/protagonist is the junior partner in a failing investigative magazine. On an otherwise unremarkable weekend morning, he finds out that he has been the target of an elaborate plot to murder him — one that was foiled by the police before the assassins could reach his home.

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For Me, It Was Tuesday

Raul Julia was a multiple Tony Award winner, a humanitarian, and an authentic cultural hero of Puerto Rico. He died of a stroke during a protracted battle with stomach cancer. His last major role was as “M. Bison” in Street Fighter. After Julia’s death, much was made of the fact that, after a long and much-celebrated career, the actor had “ironically” died immediately after starring in an awful film based on a video game. But there was nothing ironic, or accidental, about it. Knowing that he was desperately ill, Julia took the role at the request of his children, who were fans of the game. And his performance just about redeems what is otherwise a meritless film.

The above scene from Street Fighter is the “Trope Namer” of But For Me, It Was Tuesday. Check it out. And a very happy Tuesday to all of you!

“This Shows That You Really Are Israeli”

I think I’ve underestimated the degree to which Palestine-fetishism has penetrated American universities. This young woman, who most likely has little to no real-world acquaintance with the Middle East, feels empowered to walk into someone’s store and lecture them for supporting their homeland. She starts with the usual hectoring rhetoric on diversity and inclusion, but near the end, she slips a bit: “You really are Israeli.”

A few thoughts on the video and the situation:

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The True Victim Of The Somali Terror Attack Was, Um, The Somali Terrorist


#BlackLivesMatter: a hashtag for a political movement funded by George Soros and others to the tune of over $133 million. The true purpose of Black Lives Matter, according to the most perceptive external observers, is to establish something between complete federal oversight for local law enforcement and the complete federalization of local law enforcement.

#SayHisName: A hashtag meant to memorialize African-Americans who are killed by the police. The idea is that by saying their names, we humanize them, allowing us to see them as people instead of statistics or mere criminals who “had it coming”.

#BuckeyeStrong: Some meaningless stupid shit that presumably is meant to riff on #BostonStrong, another meaningless hashtag that seeks to equate the death of people who were the victims of terrorist violence and the “struggle” of people who kinda-sorta live in the same neighborhood.

Stephanie Clemons Thompson is facing calls for her resignation/termination after expressing sympathy for Abdul Ali Artan, the nutjob who tried to run a bunch of OSU students down and/or attack them with a knife. I’d like to see her fired as well. I’d also like to see her publicly flogged, the way we used to treat enemy sympathizers and fellow-travelers before we all got so civilized. But Mrs. Thompson’s biggest mistake is, I think, not her sympathy for the Somali-immigrant terrorist and Muslim cry-bully, but rather her myopic, self-deceiving refusal to take him seriously.

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Out, Darned Spot!


In 1807, Thomas Bowdler published The Family Shakespeare, “in which nothing is added to the original text; but those words and expressions are omitted which cannot with propriety be read aloud in a family.” And no, the famous line isn’t changed to “Out, darned spot!” but rather “Out, crimson spot!” which in fact is a bit of an improvement to the original text as it makes it perfectly clear to younger people that Lady Macbeth is referring to the king’s blood.

There are two major editions of The Family Shakespeare; the first one was largely or entirely the product of Harriet Bowdler and omitted a few plays (Romeo and Juliet chief among them) entirely because they could not be thoroughly sanitized without becoming incomprehensible. It was published anonymously, because Harriet did not think it appropriate for women to have their names on a public document. For the second edition, Dr. Thomas Bowdler put his name on the book and reversed some of Harriet’s more enthusiastic changes, in addition to restoring the deleted plays. Readers who are curious about the Bowdlers and the critical response to The Family Shakespeare can read more here.

As with Rudolf Diesel, society has paid Thomas Bowdler the supreme compliment of lower-casing him; one can occasionally read that something was “bowdlerized”, meaning that it has had the offensive (or exciting) content removed. The massive changes in social norms over the past fifty years means that we’ve changed what and how we bowdlerize; today we focus more on violence than sex, where the Greatest Generation censored sex more than violence.

The newest chapter in Dr. Bowdler’s legacy, however, isn’t about sex or violence; it’s about a word.

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Tell The Truth And Shame The Devil


I am very proud to be a Contributing Editor for Road&Track magazine today. It’s not because I’ve written our Performance Car Of The Year feature for each of the four years we’ve done it, although that is one of the things that, as Belle&Sebastian sings, they can write on my grave or when they scatter my ashes. It’s how we handled a situation that was deeply upsetting and embarrassing for all of us at R&T — and how we broke the rules of the business in doing so.

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They Say The Darkest Hour Is Right Before The Dawn


Had to make a late-night run through some old stuff at TTAC and I came up this. It seems crazy, but just a little bit less than four years ago, many days at our (not so) little (at the time) car site had image upload panels like this.

As both a professional and an amateur storyteller, I get a little upset sometimes thinking about how many great stories are just lost to humanity because everybody involved is dead, silent, illiterate, or just plain uninterested in sharing the details. The story of Bertel’s Last Days at TTAC has the potential to be a truly memorable tale. It’s got everything — big ears! war crimes! strippers with broken teeth! crazy old dudes attacking other strippers!— but nobody who was there at the time is ready to talk just yet.

I’ve decided that I’m going to save the story, with every last juicy detail, for the day when I leave the auto-journo game, either by choice or by force. On that day, when I can’t earn a buck any more writing about cars, I’m going to open up my Franklin Planner, read all my notes, and share something that isn’t exactly the greatest story ever told — but it’s far from being the worst.

Somebody Tell Me What’s Going On Here


No way this is for real. This broad looks like an owl. I’m concerned that this is what signals the Last Trump. No relation to Donald; the “last trump” is found in the Bible. When Revelations was translated, what they called a “trumpet” or “trump” would be more like what we call a “bugle” nowadays.

This weekend, we got three podium finishes (two thirds and a second) at the NASA Autobahn race south of Chicago. It was a fantastic, but utterly exhausting, two days. Watch this space as we resume regular service tomorrow!

Turns Out We Weren’t Stealing From Prince’s Mom After All


Back in 1986, there were apparently quite a few people sneaking around the build site at 5622 Riverside Drive. Separated from Riverside Green by a deep thicket of uncultivated trees and shrubs, the massive new home was going up slowly but surely. Truckloads of stone, wood, and other materials arrived daily. Some of that wood was plywood. You could use it for ramps and whatnot. Your humble author, it must be admitted, participated in a small amount of Bernie-Sanders-style liberation from the capitalists, securing a half-sheet of plywood for a sloppily-constructed ramp that launched me and brother Bark into the air about fifteen times before collapsing into instant garbage.

I should point out that we weren’t normally the stealing types, but the house under construction was so far out of our experience that it seemed like it didn’t belong in reality. Who builds a massive cathedral of a home right next to a bunch of duplexes and multi-family dwellings, anyway? On the upward curve of a road where people regularly did 70+ mph, making it sheer murder to try getting in or out of the place?

Never in our various visits to the site, both thieving and merely touring, did we see a young dental student nosing around the place. But there was such a fellow…

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Don’t You Recognize A Fellow Astronaut

It’s a nasty paradox: in order to write a lot, you need to read a lot. For the even vaguely competent author, reading serves to recharge the creative batteries, said batteries then being discharged in the course of writing new material. But the more you write, the less time you have to read. Which, in turn, makes it harder to write quickly and well. Which eats up your time. Which prevents you from reading. You get the idea.

For the last two years or so, I’ve chosen to deal with this by increasing the intensity of my reading and post-reading consideration. In practical terms, that means that I’ve entirely stopped reading the auto media. I read my fellow contributors in R&T because I want to see where the magazine is going, and I’ll very occasionally re-read a magazine from twenty or thirty years ago for nostalgia purposes, but other than that — nada zip zero. Don’t ask me if I’ve read the latest whatever from Jonny “Caviar” Lieberman or Dutch Mandel or Brett Berk. I haven’t. I don’t have that kind of time, and if I had that kind of time it would be more productively spent hanging out with my son, fighting with my Pro-Spot P100, or staring at a blank wall.

This is what I do: I read the New York Review Of Books, the Atlantic, Lapham’s Quarterly, and (sssssh) Vintage Guitar. About once a month I’ll read something from the 18th or 19th C. just for the purposes of keeping that slight patina on my grammar and sentence construction. That’s about all I can manage, pathetic as it is.

I mention all of this to explain why it took a Tweet from a reader today for me to notice Pete Dushenski taking a reasonably solid crack at me almost a month ago.

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