Washington Post book critic Jonathan Yardley reviewed a new book on Sunday by historian William Chafe called Bill and Hillary: The Politics of the Personal. The book included this bizarre concept: "in the strangest of ways, Clinton’s reckless sexual behavior actually enhanced their personal ties. It made their relationship more functional and productive."
Yardley called this "a bit of a stretch." Just a bit??
Washington Post book critic Jonathan Yardley took up the new book by Weekly Standard contributor Joseph Epstein on Gossip. Yardley complained that Epstein defined gossip with some "lame" words by John Podhoretz (instead of liberal Nora Ephron), but he deeply enjoyed how Epstein managed to take apart one Tina Brown, who is now the editor of both Newsweek magazine and the Daily Beast website.
Epstein identified how seemingly everywhere Tina goes, the magazine loses gobs of money but she build all kinds of "buzz," largely about herself:
The Style section of Monday's Washington Post has an enormous picture of Jimmy Carter with the simple headline "The Book of Jimmy." The Post is jarringly behind Carter's publicity curve for his latest book White House Diary, but reporter Manuel Roig-Franzia began with the usual goo from Carter's church in Plains, Georgia: "On those scattered weekends when Jimmy Carter isn't out enforcing Middle East harmony or slaying Guinea worms or compensating for presidential malaise with ex-presidential vim, the 86-year-old can be found in Sunday school."
Anyone who's paid attention to Carter would know that "enforcing Middle East harmony" is not the right description for someone who compares Israel to apartheid-era South Africa.
Readers who don't want a cavity from all that sugar might move on to the next story, but Roig-Franzia arrived at a sharper point in paragraph nine, after Carter has declared that America is the nation most committed to waging war in the entire world, and that the Iraq invasion was "horribly unnecessary" -- the reporter read Carter's book and finds that he's a preachy know-it-all:
Mark Lewis at Forbes.com wondered "is there anyone among the current crop of right-wing pundits who can bear comparison to" legendary columnist, critic, and curmudgeon H.L. Mencken? "Absolutely nobody," declared Washington Post book critic Jonathan Yardley, who edited Mencken's posthumous memoir My Life as Author and Editor.
"These people are self-important pipsqueaks," Yardley said, via e-mail. "I don't respect a single one of them, much less think that a single one of them deserves to be compared to H.L.M. I do have a measure of respect for David Brooks, whose knee doesn't seem to jerk in his sleep, but he's no Mencken and I suspect he'd be the first to say so."
Lewis noted that Ann Coulter has declared herself the new Mencken, and that other conservatives have drawn the comparison: P.J. O’Rourke, Mark Steyn, and R. Emmett Tyrrell, (who seems most eager to capture the Menckenesque voice).
I enjoy reading long-time Washington Post book reviewer Jonathan Yardley, and one thing he does that’s interesting is write about reading a classic book a second time. This week, he revisited the 1931 book Only Yesterday, a very popular history of the 1920s by Frederick Lewis Allen.Yardley explained that his book had "a hint of Mencken in it, but Allen was his own man and resisted the mere apery to which so many tinhorn Menckenites of his day succumbed. Allen was a fair man, as it must be admitted Mencken really was not, and though he had his own sharp opinions, he sought balance and understanding rather than invective."
But the paragraph he quoted before that balanced-without-invective claim looks a lot more like invective against "a pestilence" of anti-communists of the time than it looks like "balance and understanding"on the subject of the "Red Scare." In fact, the words "Red Scare" betray a lack of balance. He wrote: