WALTER RUSSELL MEAD –
I review books on the United States for Foreign Affairs; that means every couple of months a huge box of books arrives at the stately Mead manor and I go through piles of books trying to decide which ones to read for review. It’s a lot of work for not much product; the “capsule” reviews are about 200 words each. That’s much the same length as the book reports I used to write for Mrs. West back in the third grade; if I’d known how important this literary form was going to be to my future career, I might have tried harder back then.
There are times when this seems like an intolerable burden; between blogging, teaching, keeping up with the news and reading books for review, I don’t have as much time for free reading as I’d like. There are all kinds of books on 17th century French and Spanish history piling up on my iPad these days — full of insights and juicy ideas that would deepen my understanding of early modern history and generally refresh my soul, but I don’t know when I’ll get to them. (And that’s saying nothing about the literary and genre fiction I’d like to read this summer. More Hilary Mantel, more Neal Stephenson, and more Allen Furst, please.)
One of the books I’ve been reading for review is Twilight of the Elites: America after Meritocracy by Christopher Hayes. I’ll save the review for Foreign Affairs, but for Via Meadia readers, this is an interesting book because it represents an effort by a talented and thoughtful left thinker to grapple with the nature of contemporary American populism. Hayes (who I’ve never met, but would like to) is an interesting guy and his perspective a few steps to the left of the center-left technocratic consensus of the mainstream media allows him to make some interesting observations about where things stand in the United States today.