THE PURSUIT OF HAPPINESS, AND OTHER SOBERING THOUGHTS by George F. Will
Kirkus Star

THE PURSUIT OF HAPPINESS, AND OTHER SOBERING THOUGHTS

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KIRKUS REVIEW

George Will's columns offer two congruent pleasures: that of knowing what he'll say, that of not knowing what he'll say. Writing for the Washington Post syndicate and Newsweek for the past five years, he has articulated an acute, unsparing, up-to-date conservative position. He can be counted on to mount a respectable argument against preferential treatment for minorities and, equally, against ""single-minded majoritarians, who consider democracy a matter of mere numbers."" He is satisfyingly scathing about ""verbal litter,"" recipes for making love (""How many of us have ever made mayonnaise?""), or prescriptions for raising children and a comfort, as well, to those discomfited by rampant pornography, ""the prevailing zest for frankness"" (a la Betty Ford), and other aspects of the coarsening of America. But he doesn't hold televison or any other ""them"" responsible: ""the world is not that easy to turn."" Will brings to his predilection for reticence, moderation, discipline--all the hardtack virtues--two significant assets, a sense of history and a capacity for making distinctions. He knows the old, pre-FDR days weren't all that good, that government intervention may be required ""to achieve collective purposes for an ongoing nation"" (whether saving fuel or saving motorists' lives), that--going abroad--""Britain's fundamental problem is not the generosity of its social programs"" but an inconvenient lack of aggressiveness. He is nowhere more discerning, however, than on politics and public figures--not the baddies or goodies (too ridiculous, too sublime)--but those mixed quantities like Jerry Brown or Huey Long, the political animals like Russell Long, Tip O'Neill--or Jimmy Carter. Read him on the Playboy gaffe, the first debate (""as satisfying as a completed sneeze""), the dense ""weave of the world's fabric"" and the concomitant peril of weak government. ""Friendship,"" he observes in passing, ""should, indeed, be an education in complexity."" Getting to know Will, the Murray Kempton of the Right, is exactly that.

Pub Date: May 31st, 1978
Publisher: Harper & Row