11 Feb 2010

The Contentless Book Review

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Well maybe I need to rethink my “Matt Yglesias just misunderstands economics” theme. He enthusiastically links to this review of Thomas Sowell by Alan Wolfe. Go ahead and skim Wolfe’s review; it’s a Star Chamber in prose.

In his big bad book review, Wolfe (by my quick count) lets us know of about maybe three things that Sowell believes. But the majority of the post is dedicated to the tone of Sowell’s writing, of how bad it is. For example:

The more interesting question is how Sowell managed the task of actually writing the thing. Even jeremiads should have their joys; there is something so wonderful about being a writer and a critic that delivering even bad news can be a source of unbearable pleasure. But Sowell takes no joy in anything he has to say: his tone is as dour and depressing as his conclusions. I understand that the man is a conservative, but can’t he crack a smile? Sowell is such a plodder that even sarcasm, conservatism’s reliable and sometimes amusing old ally, is beyond his reach.

Now you would think Wolfe might offer, say, a quotation from the book, but I think we are treated to a grand total of 31 words from Sowell’s 300+-page book under review.

Before you shake your head at Wolfe (and Yglesias’) intellectual dishonesty, keep in mind that I was upset when Tyler Cowen reviewed Naomi Klein’s book The Shock Doctrine and quoted from her 31 fewer words than Wolfe did of Sowell. But at least Tyler didn’t dwell on what an awful writer Klein was.

One Response to “The Contentless Book Review”

  1. Daniel Hewitt says: