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February 06, 2005

NYT Book Review hits bottom

DJW:

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).

I'll see his Stein-on-Medved and raise him a Toibin-on-Hitchens:

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.

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Comments

I try and show some patience with Hitch [and you need it,but it can be rewarded]. Medved is simply to off-putting to listen to. I did briefly, a few days ago on NPR. It was grim. I guess he has a talk show somewhere. All syndicated hosts write a book and then plug away incessantly [Michael Savage]. It's part of the manipulation game. I'm glad he's on their side.

The decline of criticism, coupled w the decline of editing and publishing- in actually seeking out, & promoting good writing. and instead publishing only books they think the LCD masses will swill is a cycle that is self-feeding even as it's self-defeating. There are more people writing than ever- per capita as well as just raw figures, and it is incumbent to thresh out the bad. But in this PC age a false demoticism of equality has grabbed society by the balls and refuses to let go.
Complain, rebut in blogs like this, and get the bloodless corpo-bean counters out of the arts and may be, along with a courage to stand up to PC, the trends can be reversed. Otherwise the Oprahfication of literature will continue to rot minds, making them even less willing to stand up against the retrogressive forces outside of politics.
Wanna neuter your enemies?- feed'em junk food. DAN

I fold.

I dunno, I'd never read Toibin before, but I thought (considering it was the Times) that a Hitchens review could be worse. But, yeah, the sentiment in his last three paragraphs should have comprised half the essay instead of a weak coda.

http://www.villagevoice.com/books/0505,giuffo,60659,10.html>This piece, while not a proper book review, is much better.

You must be joking. As odious as Hitchens can be, he is a writer of some talent and (at one time anyway) conviction. Medved on the other hand...ye Gods. A vapid bletherskite of the first water.

Hitchens has talent, but Toibin is an inept reviewer. The passages Toibin cites to support his claim that Hitch can write as well as Orwell are just bad.

And moreover, bad in exactly the ways that Orwell loved to skewer.

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