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FOOLS' NAMES, FOOLS' FACES by Andrew Ferguson

FOOLS' NAMES, FOOLS' FACES

By Andrew Ferguson

Pub Date: Oct. 4th, 1996
ISBN: 0-87113-651-1
Publisher: Atlantic Monthly

 A collection of short, somewhat topical, somewhat humorous essays by a self-described ``journalistic hit man.'' From H.L. Mencken to Tom Wolfe to P.J. O'Rourke the right has enjoyed a proud tradition of wickedly acerbic and satirical cultural criticism. Over the years they have crafted a hit-and-run attack style that is almost rote by now. While Ferguson, a senior editor of the Weekly Standard, has the form down pat, he definitely belongs in the second tier of its practitioners. Unlike the masters, Ferguson's pen is not so acid, his gaze not so penetrating, his comic stylings kinder and gentler (read not so funny). Many of these pieces (e.g., skewering Donald Trump as an empty suit who can't write) have also long passed their expiration dates. Many of the pieces, perhaps reflecting their origins in places like the New Republic, the Wall Street Journal, and National Review, tend to be on the short side; three or four pages is just not enough space to develop a full-fledged theme or idea. Ferguson is more successful when he eases off on the attempts at comedy and shows his true talents as a moralist, unafraid to look behind conventional wisdom. His essay on the failings of the Supreme Court is first-rate, as is his analysis of the press corps's sacred-cow view of itself (the real source, he claims, of their disgust with Don Imus's National Press Club speech). When he is in the high moral dudgeon, he even manages to transcend the shackles of topicality, such as in his damning attacks on Robert McNamara (who, he says, has an unfailing ability to fail while continuing to move up the ladder of success) and the ``saint'' and profiteering one- man industry of PBS, Bill Moyers. Flaws aside, this is rarely a dull book, but it is carelessly compiled, and Ferguson spends too much time looking over other writers' shoulders.