January 10, 2006

Review Reviewed

You know, if there is one thing I would have thought the Review could do well, it would be ridiculing hipsters. Unfortunately, I was wrong.

Nick Desai's little essay is a lesson in what sentences look like when they are brutally forced and lack any point whatsoever. I have made fun of the Review's ostentatious prose before, but honestly, I enjoy reading a sentence that contains words that I thought only I (and George Will) knew. But only if those sentences are smooth, albeit in a Thomas Carlyle-throw-the-kitchen-sink-into-every-clause manner. Desai can write well; I have enjoyed many of his previous reviews, and his review of Zadie Smith's On Beauty isn't half-bad (though I find mine a bit more complete). But this hipster article reads like walking across the Green in spring, alone and drunk—boggy, meandering, and dull. Describing hipsterism (much less pillorying it) is a tough assignment, true. But good writers nail the tough assignments.

Skipping over to the editor's corner, I find an essay that is lucidly written, interesting, and well-argued, though a lot is left unstated that I find rather bigoted, to be honest. The point of the editorial is that Jews work harder and are more driven than Latinos, Native Americans and blacks, but because the admission office's focus is on ethnic diversity, Jews get screwed and Latinos, Native Americans and blacks benefit. The writer (still not putting names online, I see) also defends legacies and athletes courageously, but rather ineffectually. Their justification for why some legacies get a helping hand is that such a boost is "a testament to the child-rearing ability of Dartmouth graduates." Amusing, fellas.

Book reviews galore. Many of the books, bores.

Kale Bonger's review of Rick Santorum's It Takes a Family (And State Intervention) is not only good, but it represents the kind of conservative thinking that this country needs. Yeah, you heard me.

Kale skewers Santorum when he says, "The justification for his ideas seems to be that, since Santorum is a self-proclaimed conservative, Americans can trust him with their tax monies: his Great Society-like programs will succeed where Johnson’s did not solely because Santorum is on an opposing ideological side." America needs anti-statist conservatives, and it needs them keeping an eye on morons like Santorum.

However, Kale agrees with Santorum that the family is essentially the best proving ground and factory for morality. I think this is wrong. The most reliable source of morality (or virtue, if you prefer) is the fear of other families, the possibility of shame, and the terror of humiliation. Advertising preys on these things, and so does morality, which is just another kind of advertising. A better, more socially beneficial form, but you're still selling an image—to yourself or to others, it's still a sale.

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