The New Republic Online has posted a spate of book reviews recently and I thought I might bring them to your attention. I believe some of them require subscription so if you can’t read them in their entirety I apologize.
Finally On Beauty is an odd mixture–alternately amusing, perceptive, even emotionally absorbing, with some of the narrative zest of White Teeth, and then too often schematic, insistent, or simply not quite credible. The American academic setting, which Smith knows but perhaps not well enough, and the emulation of Howard’s End, which is an interesting idea that does not altogether fit this fictional world, may have led her astray. As a novelist, she can marshal shrewd understanding, stylistic flair, vivid description, and a lively sense of comedy. All this may yet enable her to produce great fiction, but On Beauty is still far from that.
The book’s title, Bait and Switch, refers to Ehrenreich’s argument that corporate management entices its workers to climb the corporate ladder, sacrificing their humanity for security and status, only to eventually lose their jobs. But the true bait and switch is the book itself, which promises insights into the work experience of corporate middle management but explores only the pathetic, exploited, compulsive, and self-deluded lives of job-seekers.
– Mrs. America by Alan Wolfe looks at Phyllis Schlafly and Grassroots Conservatism: A Woman’s Crusade By Donald T. Critchlow. Wolfe is hopelessly biased. Conservatives are racist, anti-semitic, misogynist, and generally bad people:
Conservatism was in large part a revolt by whites against the aspirations of blacks, and whatever success it enjoyed was a by-product of the backlash that it generated.
Wolfe excoriates Critchlow for not sharing this view:
It was a stroke of considerable inventiveness for Critchlow to persuade Schlafly to cooperate with him. Too bad that the book he produced is dreadful. Critchlow is right to insist on Schlafly’s influence–but influence is a neutral category. It may be a force for good or a force for ill, depending upon the ideas that animate it. Let it be said of Phyllis Schlafly that every idea she had was scatter-brained, dangerous, and hateful. The more influential she became, the worse off America became. But Critchlow can barely bring himself to lift his eyes from the Schlafly papers long enough to examine her views with anything approaching a critical perspective. Critchlow is by no means a leftist academic historian implacably hostile to his right-wing subject. Quite the contrary. His book is fair and balanced, in the Fox News sense of those terms. Not even saints should be admired as much as Critchlow worships Schlafly, and Schlafly is not a saint.
I haven’t read the book so I can’t comment on Wolfe’s more subject orientated critiques but his hatred of conservatism is so overwhelming that you can’t take his views seriously. Wolfe is calling not for scholarship but advocacy.