NYT Book Review hits bottom
Observation: OK, this is obvious, but I'll say it again: The NYT book review is a disaster. One of the biggest problems is that they can't pick appropriate reviewers. This Stein clown is, given his affiliations, almost certain to fawn over a twit like Medved. Last week, I discussed the decision to allow Easterbrook to review Jared Diamond's lastest, another obvious invitation to idiocy (although no one could have predicted the scale of it).
When [Hitch] is not being mean and when he is not happy, he can write as well as George Orwell. His witnessing an execution by lethal injection of a man who was suffering from post-Vietnam stress disorder makes for a brilliant, chilling piece of work. ''The medical butchery of a helpless and demented loser, the descendant of slaves and a discarded former legionary of the Empire, made neither society nor any individual safer. It canceled no moral debt. It was a creepy, furtive and shameful affair, in which the participants could not decently show their faces or quite meet one another's eye.'' His essay on the nonteaching of history in the United States, where his own children cannot ''tell Thomas Jefferson from Thomas the Tank Engine,'' is also thoughtful and convincing.
When he travels with a moral purpose, his prose becomes sharper. His long article on the Kurds, in all their wanderings, is a serious piece of reporting. His trip to North Korea belongs both in an anthology of good comic writing and in one of good political reporting. His surprisingly measured essay on David Irving, the historian who denied the Holocaust, has all the hallmarks of Orwell's method -- to be deeply suspicious, first of all, of your own prejudices before you begin to approach the prejudices of others.