A lively sampling of unabashedly left-wing commentary from scholar/journalist Wiener (History/Univ. of California at...



A lively sampling of unabashedly left-wing commentary from scholar/journalist Wiener (History/Univ. of California at Irvine). Dealing primarily with the academic and pop-cultural manifestations of contemporary political and intellectual debates, these 42 articles, essays, and reviews, published between 1974 and 1990 in such journals as The Nation (where the author is a contributing editor) and The New Republic, offer a cleareyed, surprisingly balanced, and consistently readable view of an alternately comic and alarming battleground. At his best (a series of articles masterfully disentangling the furious efforts of leading deconstructionists to explain the anti-Semitic collaborationist writing of the late Paul de Man; an account of the bizarre ""vendetta"" against Marxist historian David Abraham by mainstream academics), Wiener uses straightforward reportage to expose the absurd posturings of self-righteous ideologues. Regrettably, his own devotion to ""moral issues"" brings the author perilously close to tripping over his own political correctness. Thus, while pieces on such knotty university issues as striking a balance between free-speech guarantees and protecting victims of verbal abuse serve as thoughtful considerations of difficult questions, a group of essays dealing with right-wing and left-wing academics degenerates into an endless parade of predictable bad guys (Daniel Boorstin, Allan Bloom, Shelby Steele) versus the reliably radical good guys (Jesse Lemisch, Derrick Bell, Eugene D. Genovese). At the same time, as a keen observer of mainstream culture, always alert to ""paradox and irony,"" Wiener delivers an unexpectedly affecting reconsideration of Frank Sinatra as brokenhearted activist (""When Old Blue Eyes was 'Red' ""), along with a chillingly funny visit to the Nixon ""Liebrary"" (a ""twisted trip down memory lane"") and a peek at the frightening saga of FBI surveillance of John Lennon (since 1981, the author has been trying to obtain the complete Lennon files under the Freedom of Information Act). Insightful and frequently engaging, though hobbled by the lack of a comprehensive introduction and by some thematic and factual repetition.

Pub Date: Dec. 1, 1991


Page Count: 300

Publisher: "Verso--dist. by Routledge, Chapman & Hall"

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 1991