Negative Reviews, Briefly Noted

I hope I can make this an occasional series. Categories will be multifarious.

Yeah, She Annoys Me, Too: Virginia Heffernan on Sarah Vowell (“She delivers a farrago of free-floating pedantry . . . Vowell’s whole alt-­everything vibe is just dated enough to be cringey. . . . With all these middlebrow historians making scholarly work perfectly accessible, do we really need still more accessibility — pierced-brow history, maybe, with TV and pop-music references?”).

Not Quite Julius Caesar’s Gallic Wars: Chelsea Cain on Susan Cheever (“The word “addict” is so overused that sex addicts have a hard time getting taken seriously, much less getting sympathy. Cheever aims to fix this. The book — like a manual on crabgrass control — is divided into three parts, “What is it?” “What causes it?” and “What can we do about it?”).

Worse than Heidegger: Adam Kirsch on Slavoj Zizek (“Zizek’s allegedly progressive thought leads directly into a pit of moral and intellectual squalor. . . He is trying to undo the achievement of all the postwar thinkers who taught us to regard totalitarianism, revolutionary terror, utopian violence, and anti-Semitism as inadmissible in serious political discourse.”).

Kunderan Kitsch?: Andrew Orlowski on Malcolm Gladwell (“Gladwell is a walking Readers Digest 2.0: a compendium of pop science anecdotes which boil down very simply to homespun homilies. Like the Digest, it promises more than it delivers, and like the Digest too, it’s reassuringly predictable. . . .Gladwell in essence: he always ends with a Hallmark style greeting telling you something sweet, bland and uplifting – that you already knew.”)

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