Thursday, June 19, 2008

Lord Black and Nixonland

There are a couple of reasons I found Conrad Black’s review of Nixonland for The New York Sun is both deliciously appropriate and kind of funny (though the giggle inducing was, no doubt, not intended).

In the first place, Black is the author of Richard M. Nixon: A Life in Full (PublicAffairs), a huge, toe-breaker of a book The New Yorker called an “exculpatory gloss for seemingly every grimy facet of Nixon’s career.”

In the second place, Black -- who is also Lord Black of Crossharbour -- is currently in jail for obstruction of justice and fraud. It’s not much of a surprise that Black doesn’t love the more recent book on Nixon:
There has been a good deal of comment on “Nixonland” by Rick Perlstein, a pastiche of journalistic highlights of the tumultuous years between Lyndon Johnson's immense landslide over Barry Goldwater in 1964, and Richard Nixon's comparable burial of George McGovern in 1972. The country effectively rejected the right for the center-left, and then the left for the center-right, similar responses, bracketing the heavy Vietnam involvement.

The book is unrigorously and almost unrelievedly opinionated. Its theses are that the United States is almost unprecedentedly divided; that its political discourse has been almost unprecedentedly coarsened; and that Richard Nixon is responsible for both. All of these propositions are demonstrably false. This is the last, and far from the most persuasive, stand of the Nixon demonstrators.
The book in question, Nixonland: The Rise of a President and the Fracturing of America by Rick Perlstein was published by Scribner in mid-May and has been well-reviewed in other places. Black’s New York Sun review is here.

Tip of the hat to Quill & Quire.

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