Arts and Crafts (March, April, May)

Arts and Crafts (March, April, May)

Peck devotes more than 30 contemptuous pages to Sven Birkerts, for the street crime and mortal sin of generosity in literary criticism.  Think of it: with a whole world of worthy targets — Rupert Murdoch, Michael Eisner, Donald Trump, Conrad Black, Eli Manning, Shell Oil, Clear Channel, Condé Nast — he mugs a man who has spent the last quarter of a century staying poor by reviewing other people’s books, who has read more widely, warmly and deeply than the vampire bat fastened to his carotid, who should be commended rather than ridiculed for a willingness to take on a review of a new translation of Mandelstam’s journals, and who, even though he wrote a regrettably mixed review of a book of mine in these pages, deserves far better from the community of letters, if there is one, than Peck’s bumptious heehaw: ”With friends like this, literature needs an enema

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Arts and Crafts (March, April, May)

A forensic analysis of Gordon-Reed’s review offers some important lessons beyond the basics. Parkinson’s book is about the ways that, from the very beginning of the Revolution, Patriot leaders made a concerted decision, reflected strongly in newspapers, to construe and to twin their new enemy, the British, with African Americans and Native Americans. The way to win a war was to create “common cause,” which meant finding first an “us” and then a “them”. Common cause among enough white colonists to overcome their longstanding

Arts and Crafts (March, April, May)

connection to and affinity for Britain was produced in large measure, Parkinson argues, through identifying common enemies, and no scapegoat was more alluring or more effective than racial and ethnic others. In the course of this three-sentence summary I’ve flattened out a rich, multi-dimensional and deeply researched account of how political ambitions and communication technology harnessed racism in the service of the nation’s founding. Gordon-Reed contends that “it will be impossible to think seriously about the American Revolutionary War — or the revolutionaries — without reference to this book’s prodigious research, wholly unsentimental perspective, and bracing analysis.” But she persuades the reader of the review that this is so, not by walking us through the (long) book, but by illustrating its importance…

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