From a very longtime reader:
I’m in the middle of chapter two, so I don’t have a really detailed and compelling critique yet, but I have some first impressions. By the end of chapter one I was deeply disappointed that it didn’t include more of the acerbic Goldberg wit. I knew it wouldn’t contain any sidebars from Cosmo or the couch, but I thought you might still spend a little energy ridiculing the most unrepentant and intellectually dishonest denials and rationalizations of the left. You know … just a little.
But by the middle of chapter two it occurred to me that the effect of purging your sniping from the book has the same effect as strong tannins in red wine. When it’s new, it seems too dry and chalky, but in the end it’s the thing that gives it legs, and keeps it from being dated. It makes it taste even better a decade from now than it does today, and that’s not so bad.
I didn’t get it in chapter one, but I think I do now. It’s an important book, and it will be made more important by the people who flail desperately to try and find reasons to discredit it. Legions of academics will be immediately be “protesting too much” and I can’t wait to watch it. And it will definitely be a cornerstone moment in the dialog between left and right. It takes a big stick out of the left’s hands, and wraps them on the back of the hand with it rather than beating them over the head.
The mercantilist in me thinks you might have done better with a 180 page polemic ala PJ O’Rourke…something with Cosmo on the cover that’s just a collection of your other writing. But I suppose there’s no reason you can’t do something like that as a second book after this, while something like this might have been impossible after you chose to go down that road. And for myself, when offered a choice to reveal some greater truth and change the world in some small way, or to make a bunch of scratch, I’ve usually chosen to reveal the truth, so who am I to argue with you.
Like the man said “Good luck storming the castle”.
All the best,
Me: First, thanks. I hear this sort of thing a lot, and I understand that some readers are bummed — or bummed at first — that the Shecky Goldberg stuff is lacking. (Cosmo does appear in the acknowledgments though).
A couple quick points. I think by the later chapters subtle undertones and accents (to use the wine lingo) of that kind of thing pop up. But the early chapters are about Nazis and Fascists and I wanted to both be as serious as the subject warrants and state my early argument without giving people are reason to think I wasn’t serious.
I will definitely be doing a collection of funnier writing or some such in the future. But you only write your first book once and this is the book I wanted to write. I’m grateful to readers who prefer the gonzo-er Goldberg for sticking with me on a more serious book. But I don’t think people should be overly worried that the book is a homework assignment. I think — hope! — there’s some entertainment value in there.