Sunday, January 15, 2006

Tract Society

Thomas Frank, the author of What's the Matter with Kansas? and editor of The Baffler has a review in the February issue of Harpers of 100 People Who Are Screwing Up America (And Al Franken Is #37), by Bernard Goldberg. 100 People is the kind of book that I would only read under the circumstances that Frank did -- for pay and with the opportunity to mock in print. It is essentially a tract for the converted. The production of such tracts, from both the left and right, has exploded in the Bush years and I have reviewed three of them and briefly looked at several more. Most of them are awful. Those on the right seem worse and I'm not sure if it is because liberals are at least attacking the party in power or because this kind of thing has a larger audience on the Right and thus casts a wider net.

Whatever the reason, most authors of these political tracts lack the wit and subtlety of Jack T. Chick. They all make valid points. I agree with Ann Coulter that some of the mockery of Dan Quayle was unfair though I am not nearly upset about it as she is. And I'm sure that many on the left are as Unhinged as Michelle Malkin believes them to be, though I would take her more seriously is she didn't seem so unhinged herself and didn't link to patently looney rightwing nutcases such as the Anti-Idiotarian Rottweiler.

This description by Frank probably applies to them all:
This is a book that scarcely requires an author. You could have assembled it yourself, with an afternoon's browsing of the major right-wing websites and a copy of the collected speeches of Spiro Agnew for stylistic guidance. And yet it stubbornly remained on the bestseller list for weeks. Why?
Perhaps it is the literary equivalent of one of those K-Tel albums from the Seventies: the greatest, most irritating hits of the decade.

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