Fired Old Man Angry at World, Ranting About Something or Other

This post by Ken Wheaton originally appeared on The Word O’ Wheaton on 1/18/15.

Leon Wieseltier, recently run out of The New Republic as a gang of Silicon Valley nitwits took over and tried to fix it, has a piece in The New York Times Sunday Book Review that starts thusly:

Amid the bacchanal of disruption, let us pause to honor the disrupted. The streets of American cities are haunted by the ghosts of bookstores and record stores, which have been destroyed by the greatest thugs in the history of the culture industry. Writers hover between a decent poverty and an indecent one; they are expected to render the fruits of their labors for little and even for nothing, and all the miracles of electronic dissemination somehow do not suffice for compensation, either of the fiscal or the spiritual kind. Everybody talks frantically about media, a second-order subject if ever there was one, as content disappears into “content.” What does the understanding of media contribute to the understanding of life? Journalistic institutions slowly transform themselves into silent sweatshops in which words cannot wait for thoughts, and first responses are promoted into best responses, and patience is a professional liability. As the frequency of expression grows, the force of expression diminishes: Digital expectations of alacrity and terseness confer the highest prestige upon the twittering cacophony of one-liners and promotional announcements. It was always the case that all things must pass, but this is ridiculous.

I’m sure after reading that bit of succinct and too-the-point prose, you’re just dying to read the rest of it. Good luck with that. You see, Leon is what I’d call a writer’s writer — or, as he’s also known, the “last of the New York intellectuals” — someone much more interested in showing off — his skill, his education or his connections — than getting to the point already. There is, of course, a way to do both without looking like you’re trying to hard to do either. But Leon, who IS a smart guy whose writing I’ve enjoyed in the past, isn’t getting it done here. He also seems to be suffering from selective historical amnesia.


Read the full post (which is actually about the need for editors) on The Word O’ Wheaton.