In a dense diatribe thick with quotations and allusions, Lott (American Studies/Univ. of Virginia) argues that liberals have flocked away from the left and settled on the center, if not to the right, of the political power line.
The author has weighed in on matters of race and culture before, and here he seems determined to mention and/or quote and/or trash everything he’s read and heard in the dozen years since the publication of Love and Theft (1993). His thesis—that many “liberals” have moved toward the center—is engaging enough, though fairly patent, and his almost giddy assaults on famous intellectuals are occasionally entertaining. Cornel West, he writes, can be “mealy-mouthed.” Lott lacerates politicians, celebrities and Founding Fathers, as well: Bills Clinton and Cosby take some unkind cuts, the former for his “habits of racial condescension,” the latter for his “townhouse jive,” while Thomas Jefferson is condemned as the philosophical godfather of Strom Thurmond. The author seems incapable of crafting a clear, declarative sentence, and on his holiday tree of prose he strings not lights but anvils and bowling balls. Time and again, the book is weighed down by long quotations from texts he assails and with lists of writers whose opinions he abhors or wishes to ridicule. He alludes too frequently to talks he heard at academic conferences in the 1990s, or essays he read in esoteric journals. Only in his epilogue, a compelling account of labor disputes at the University of Virginia, does Lott appear to be writing for anyone other than himself.
Some significant ideas caught in a hopeless tangle of academic jargon and unpruned prose.