The set of STET, Damnit!: The Misanthrope’s Corner, 1991 to 2002 and Deja Reviews: Florence King All Over Again makes the perfect Christmas gift for that prickly uncle, that crotchety cousin, or for anyone who enjoys sterling prose. Get both books as part of this special NRO offer for only $34.95 (which includes shipping and handling). You can order securely at the NRO Book Store. Or pick them up if you happen to be in or near Cedar Key, FL, at Curmudgeonalia, whose proprietor, Dick Martens, has written this glowing review of Deja, the bulk of which follows.
Another winner! Like STET Damnit, this is an anthology of King’s writings—most of them book reviews–most from National Review or the Spectator.
As with everything she writes, it is a joy to read: first because she writes so damned well, second because she is funny as hell, and third because she reviews the selection of books included with acerbicism and a scalding wit—her forte. Some she deems good, some bad, some mediocre, all handled with aplomb.
Her review entitled The Noble Whiteman, Mark Twain’s collected sketches, speeches and essays, is alone worth the price of admission. In the review she admits that she grew up with the opinion that Clemens wasn’t worth the trouble to read. She changed her mind overnight when she reviewed this collection. (No doubt she found that he was of like mind and every bit as good a writer as is she.)
She also reviews Brookhiser’s biography: Rediscovering George Washington, written when the left was making war upon this unconscionably amoral, Virginia slaveholder. She observes that this book succeeded in being superbly restorative while simultaneously annihilating Washington’s detractors. Imagine . . . the father of our country being a schmuck. Not so!
Another, Onward and Downward, deals with Dumbing Down: Essays on the Strip-Mining of American Culture, which she remarks is “refreshingly cynical” in its assessment, “breaking the smile button” with its savagely witty essays; again, consistent with her take on the situation.
Her comments on the cell phone: “I talk, therefore I am.” Beautifully descriptive and right on (!) as she observes that (Andrew Ferguson observed in his book Fool’s Names, Fool’s Faces) “yuppies with portable phones attached to their ears, [are] stopping traffic, tripping over hydrants, bumping into lampposts.” My take exactly. And the wholly insane text messaging hadn’t yet been invented.
Needless to say she excoriates other books with characteristic candor: The Education of a Woman: the Life of Gloria Steinem, A Woman’s Place: the Freshmen Women Who Change the Face of Congress, and Bitch: in Praise of Difficult Women.
Like STET, this is what I refer to as a bathroom read; brief discussions without linear context, which can be read at random when you have a few minutes and are in the mood to be amused . . . and caused to think.