Monday, February 25, 2008

'Tedious and inane'

-- by Dave

One of the things that I neglected to convey, in all my discussions of Jonah Goldberg's Liberal Fascism, was what a painful reading experience it was. I suppose it should have been obvious that trying to wade through all that disinformation and distortion, rendered in a tone akin to a frat boy holding forth among his buds, was the textual equivalent of nails on a chalkboard, for more than 400 pages, no less.

Mark Twain once called the Book of Mormon "chloroform in print." Liberal Fascism is the Chinese water torture in print.

Anyway, Michael Tomasky captures the experience in his review of the book for TNR:
For about fifty or sixty pages, I confess, I took the bait, and did my best to work myself into a lather. By page 200--there are 405 pages of actual text--offense was beside the point, and I was mentally imploring the author to get it over with. By page 300, I was bored out of my skull. And by the time I made it to the final pages, I was wishing that I had been invited instead to review a multi-volume history of farm subsidies.

But I made it all the way to the end--and to the atypically succinct coda, in which Goldberg expresses the hope that his efforts will serve the same noble, lonely cause that William Buckley aided on national television in 1968 when, after Gore Vidal called him a "crypto-Nazi," he flung the word "queer" at Vidal. (Except Goldberg hopes for greater "civility"!) So I can report with a clear conscience that Liberal Fascism is one of the most tedious and inane--and ultimately self-negating--books that I have ever read. I suspect our white-coated researchers of the future would conclude mainly that we were a society with too much time on our hands--or at least that there was once a certain Goldberg with far too much time on his. Liberal Fascism is a document of a deeply frivolous culture, or sub-culture.

Over at WhiskeyFire, thers also rather elegantly captures the soul-sucking inanity of it all:
Oy, I know I've been dragging my feet, but in my defense, Jonah Goldberg's book is very, very boring, and I keep finding more interesting things to do with my time than think about it. Stuff like clipping my toenails, deleting spam from my inbox, or peering into the toaster watching the bread turn crispy.

Oddly enough, this tedium is inflicted deliberately. There is no meaningful difference between Goldberg and Ann Coulter except how much nauseating junk they're willing to show over the knee. But Goldberg is heavily invested in coming across as "serious" and "scholarly," despite his ridiculous and obnoxious title and cover art. Since he's not capable of serious scholarship, though, what that boils down to is an expressive interest in translating "fuck you, fascist liberal swine" into 400+ pages of flatulent doublespeak -- a silly, unconvincing attempt at plausible deniability that he's not saying what he's obviously saying. Namely, that liberals are Evil and conservatives are Good.

Ergo, in an curious way Goldberg was shooting for dull... and in that, at least, he's succeeded.

Coulter just sticks up the middle finger, which is yawn-provoking enough. Goldberg has to stick up the two fingers on each side of the middle one in order to fake that he's not merely telling you to read between the lines (in the ancient junior high idiom). His book makes you feel like you just drank Nyquil to help out with your coma while a 13 year old tries to make fun of your sneakers.

Thers' review is detailed and thorough, and a nice piece of writing to boot, so be sure to read it all.

Meanwhile, over at Jonah's blog, the only thing chirping -- besides crickets, when it comes to noting either of these reviews -- is Jonah himself, who appears to be much distressed that would-be buyers can't find copies of his book in places like Seattle. It's because we're all plotting against you Jonah, don't you know?

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