Monday, November 22, 2004

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My eyes.... my eyes!!!

I may never forgive Greg Djerejian for pointing me to this Alex Beam article in the Sunday Boston Globe about what happens when policy wonks stop writing position papers and start write novels with... shudder... sex scenes.

Former Kennedy School dean Joseph Nye usually writes the kind of books discussed earnestly at policy forums and perused by index-skimming colleagues killing time at university bookstores. But no more! In his just-published novel, "The Power Game" ("a taut but sensitive political thriller" -- Tina Brown), Nye reaches out for a whole new audience. Here protagonist Peter Cutler, the proverbial "high State Department official," engages in some ill-advised personal diplomacy with the alluring Alexa Byrnes, herself a policy playa at the Department of Defense. Cutler is married, albeit not to Ms. Byrnes:

Alexa led me to the bed in the middle of the enormous room and pulled me down beside her. I kissed her breasts and ran my hand between her thighs. She gripped my shoulders tightly. Unlike the first time I made love to Alexa, when the ecstasy had been eroded by a sense of anxiety and uncertainty, I was sucked into this moment as quickly and completely as if I had placed my feet in quicksand. Memories from years ago blended with intense physical excitement in a driving, pounding torrent of passion.

In his new role as Robert Ludlum manque, Nye joins a long list of policy wonks looking for readers beyond the Beltway and the faculty lounge.

Insert your own joke about hard and soft power here -- and let me just add that I can't believe Ana Marie Cox hasn't taken this excerpt and done unspeakable things to it yet.

Other writers that appear in Beam's story include Gary Hart, William Cohen, Richard Perle, and Lynne Cheney. Go check it out and report back on who has the gift for smut (my vote is for Cheney).

[Oh, like you could do better?--ed. Someone would have to pay me an obscene advance for that to happen. And besides, if I did choose to write such a passage, it would be much more salacious to couch it in the language of international relations theory:

Diane had longed to bandwagon with Jack since their first year in grad school. In their own prisoner's dilemma, she now knew that she wanted more than just tit-for-tat -- she had to have Jack's grim trigger. This wasn't just a one-shot interaction for her. She wanted repeated play -- and although she would never say this out loud, she sensed that Jack had a very long shadow of the future.

It was taboo as a realist not to prefer balancing. If word got out, her reputation among the guns & bombs crowd would be ruined. But Jack's social constructivism was too seductive for her feeble rationalist defenses.

"Oh... Jack," she whispered into his ear, "I give in -- reconstitute my identity!"

He smiled and slowly began his discourse....

Afterwards, she turned to him and purred, "Now that's what I call utility maximization." He laughed.

Then her tone changed. "Seriously, I've never had such a shared meaning with anyone before. It was so.... intersubjective."

Ewww!!--ed. Exactly my point.]

UPDATE: Drezner gets results from Wonkette! [Completely Platonic results!!--ed.]

posted by Dan on 11.22.04 at 11:54 PM


Thankfully Nye isn't a neorealist, thereby sparing us the sordid details of Peter's self-help system. The unipolar moment, indeed.

posted by: Josh on 11.22.04 at 11:54 PM [permalink]

I do wish these nerd types would stay away from stuff they can't do. We already suffered the sex kitten crap from Gingrich, which was bad enough. But this guy feels his feet sinking into quicksand? Eww. Only a man could possibly write something quite so gross and be quite so oblivious to the really horrible concepts it raises. I won't go there. But followed by a torrent of passion? What? He's now stomping up and down or something? Oh, yick. God made some of us academics for understandable reasons, and we should pay close attention.

posted by: Anita Jensen on 11.22.04 at 11:54 PM [permalink]

Ugh ewwww bleurgh

posted by: Claire on 11.22.04 at 11:54 PM [permalink]

Dan, you rock. When will you start using passwords and adding links that read "$3.95 a month - PayPal/ Visa/ Mastercard accepted" ?

posted by: fingerowner on 11.22.04 at 11:54 PM [permalink]

In grad. school, some friends and I published an article in the student journal analyzing the LA/NYC rap wars of the early 90s through hegomonic stability theory. Is wasn't till Puffy - then "Puff Daddy" emerged as a benevolent hegemon did things settle down and were able to graced with such wonderful music as Mase's "Mo Money, Mo Problems"

posted by: Marty Weiss on 11.22.04 at 11:54 PM [permalink]

Dan, That was the funniest dirty book I have ever read.

posted by: William Sjostrom on 11.22.04 at 11:54 PM [permalink]

"I can't believe Ana Marie Cox hasn't taken this excerpt and done unspeakable things to it yet."

That would be redundant, though, wouldn't it?

posted by: Jon H on 11.22.04 at 11:54 PM [permalink]

Then there was the Indian woman who described sex with white people as "inscribing the post-colonial narrative." She was a humanities type, natch.

posted by: Norman Pfyster on 11.22.04 at 11:54 PM [permalink]

You should see the horrible things a couple of friends of mine (drunk with cheap beer and Mearsheimer) did in analyzing an attempt to pick up a girl at bar night.

...Of course my current roommates' extended sports metaphors are not much better.

posted by: Chris W on 11.22.04 at 11:54 PM [permalink]

Dan, beyond the initial nausea, your special talents do show thru.

If you could find the time to reword that text using "micro-organic decomposition" speak, I would be ever so grateful.

posted by: wishIwuz2 on 11.22.04 at 11:54 PM [permalink]


Now I'm looking forward to your second book ...

posted by: Rachel on 11.22.04 at 11:54 PM [permalink]


I suggest that if you a looking for vulgar sexual references by notable scholars, you stick to academic articles rather than novels. Luckily, as Eugene Volokh notes, "Google Scholar" is a new handy-dandy method of searching for such sexual references in academic articles.

Have fun!

(BTW - next time your wife asks you what you're doing, and you answer "reading the new Joseph Nye book", don't be surprised if she looks at you funny.)

posted by: Al on 11.22.04 at 11:54 PM [permalink]

It strikes me a lot of wonks tend to do exactly that... add a lot of complexity for the sake of it... even to such things as a sexual encounter. Perhaps why Beltway long-timers have a tendency to fare so badly in the heartland, in interpersonal situations, even including the one-nighter.

Or as my coach used to say, when presented with an insanely complex play..."these people could F%$* up a wet dream"...

posted by: Bithead on 11.22.04 at 11:54 PM [permalink]

Unlike the first time I made love to Alexa, when the ecstasy had been eroded by a sense of anxiety and uncertainty, I was sucked into this moment as quickly and completely as if I had placed my feet in quicksand.

Note that this is the perfect policy-wonk sentence. Two nested antecedent clauses hedge and protect the act of assertion before it actually occurs. Any sense of contact with reality is obscured by conventional foreign-policy similes (Quicksand? Why not just say quagmire and be done with it!)

Most absurdly, the act of assertion (i.e. insertion) is rendered in passive voice, as something that happens to the helpless man. To which this gay man joins straight women worldwide in responding: Ick!

posted by: Jarrett on 11.22.04 at 11:54 PM [permalink]

What the other commenters don't realize is that last bit is an actual section from Dan's new book, which is one IR sex joke after another.

posted by: praktike on 11.22.04 at 11:54 PM [permalink]

I should add: note that Dan's book post was titled "Oh my, that does feel good." Coincidence?

posted by: praktike on 11.22.04 at 11:54 PM [permalink]

Hmm. I thought Diane always had longed to FREERIDE on Jack...

posted by: neoliberal on 11.22.04 at 11:54 PM [permalink]

Simply masterful!

Joseph Nye should definitely have outsourced his sex-scene writing to you, Dan.

posted by: fling93 on 11.22.04 at 11:54 PM [permalink]

There's still a long way to go before you even approach matching Eugene Volokh's old vibrator obsession, Dan.

posted by: Thomas Harris on 11.22.04 at 11:54 PM [permalink]

Nye's passage just proves yet again that -- to quote someone (I can't remember who) -- "There are two things that cannot be described in writing. One of them is a sunset."

posted by: Bruce Moomaw on 11.22.04 at 11:54 PM [permalink]

You definitely don't want to read this column, which quotes from former DNC chair Joe Andrew's The Disciples....

posted by: Matt Welch on 11.22.04 at 11:54 PM [permalink]

Actually, the real icing on the cake of Nye's description is the last sentence -- in which he describes the whole experience from an impersonal, dryly descriptive THIRD PERSON point of view, of the sort one usually sees in science journal articles.

posted by: Bruce Moomaw on 11.22.04 at 11:54 PM [permalink]

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