CURSE OF THE GIANT MUFFINS and Other Washington Maladies by Michael Kinsley

CURSE OF THE GIANT MUFFINS and Other Washington Maladies

Email this review


Assorted pieces from the past few years (collected mainly, but not only, from The New Republic) that show Kinsley to be one of the best--independent, insightful, unpretentious, and sometimes deadly funny--of today's working columnists and essay-journalists. From the difficulty in getting an apartment in New York (""The Race Is Not to the Swift"") to the class-indulgent folly of the MacArthur ""genius"" grants (""What's So Great About Excellence?"") to the ethics of reporting on the private lives of public figures (""It's the hypocrisy that gripes me"") to the disastrous effort of the Democratic Party to be all things to all constituencies (""A good test of political seriousness is whether anyone opposes what you have to say"")--in just about every topic he takes on, Kinsley goes quickly to the heart of the matter, since it's seldom anything less that interests him. Often such precision of thoughtfulness leads him to make subtle distinctions that bring down whole sandcastles of carefully-nurtured pieties--as when he points out, for example, that the essence of the candidacy-destroying ""gaffe"" occurs when a politician speaks not the customary falsehoods but the unguarded truth; or that the vital and self-indulgent flaw in Jonathan Schell's The Fate of the Earth lay in its being ""basically bullying rather than argument."" Kinsley's own work, of course, is opinion, but cogency, closeness of observation, and clear argument are what make it effective and persuasive, whether in matters of such vast importance as the gathering atmosphere of fascism in America (""School Spirit Sucks"" and ""Strongmen"") or in balloon-popping satires of social pretense (""Tea, Please""), vacuous journalism (see his hilarious contest for ""most boring headline""), or plain inanity in high-level thought from economics to foreign affairs to the Attorney General's Commission on Pornography. One or two moments here may be faintly tedious or dated, but the balance is remarkably clear: a volume of wit, clarity, and great breadth, with a tireless conscience energizing the whole.

Pub Date: Aug. 28th, 1987
Publisher: Summit/Simon & Schuster