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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.
This business of dreary writing escapes me. True, writing can be a torment. But then there is the payoff: the unexpected insight, the sly pun, the implication left dangling for the reader to run with. Did Sowell’s research assistants, one of whom has worked for him for two decades, ever hear him shout with joy? Did he ever run into a colleague’s office bursting with enthusiasm about a brilliant sentence that made a whole chapter hang together? I cannot believe it. There is no grandeur in Sowell’s words, no sign of human creativity, no dream or fantasy of immortality. Sowell writes as if called to grim duty. There are people out there who hate intellectuals. His vocation is to tell them why without ever disturbing their complacency. The example of his book certainly will give them no reason to feel otherwise.
I knew Sowell was a hack in his politics but this was a "known revelation" to me - something I'd sort of always known but never truly realized - he's a hack writer too.
Half the fun of this blog is trying to share an odd insight or trying be witty: witness the double entendre in the lyrics quotes in this post's title. I giggled at my own joke, as I often do. Maybe my joke sucks, but as least I'm trying. Any writer worth reading should at least put forth that effort.
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