WRITING IN TIME by Jonathan Schell


A Political Chronicle
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 From the man who warned us about The Fate of the Earth (1982), an astute but unsatisfyingly incomplete collection of New York Newsday articles from 1992 to '96. In a viciously partisan era, these essays are a breath of fresh air. Schell apparently believes that stating strong positions doesn't require assuming that anyone who disagrees is either immoral or a moron. While the air may be fresh, however, it is also depressing. A liberal cognizant of political realities in the 1990s cannot smile while looking upon the world. For Schell the bad news is not only the abandonment of the broader responsibilities of government, characterized by the conservative policies of the 1980s, or even that this virus has now infected an aggressively centrist Democratic president. The most critical concern is the political health of the American public, where there is seemingly little basis for hope: ``The public's appetite for illusion'' was exercised in embracing the fantasies of the Reagan era. Complaining about politicians is a national pastime, of course, but consider this quandary posed by Schell: How can we believe both that our leaders are aloof from the average person and that they are spineless wonders unwilling to comb their hair without first consulting the latest polls? He suggests that the problem is hyper-responsiveness, not detachment, and this implicates the public in political decisions far more than most citizens admit. Unfortunately, while his pessimism is grounded in serious questions that should not be overlooked, the value of this volume is undermined by a fundamental flaw. How can one write a political chronicle ostensibly covering the years 199296 without articles from the second half of 1994 and all of 1995, thereby omitting the 1994 election? Schell explains that he was on leave during 1995, but this is a reason to not publish rather than a satisfactory explanation of the gap. Particularly disappointing because of the great potential demonstrated in these essays.

Pub Date: Dec. 1st, 1997
ISBN: 1-55921-177-6
Page count: 304pp
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1st, 1997


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