Saturday, June 7, 2008

George Will's five best books on opinion journalism

George F. Will's new book is One Man's America: The Pleasures and Provocations of Our Singular Nation.

For the Wall Street Journal, he named a five best list of books about opinion journalism.

The title that topped Will's list:
America Comes of Middle Age
by Murray Kempton
Little, Brown, 1963

In 1958, at 17, having come east for college, I plunked down a nickel for a New York Post and read a Murray Kempton column. That is why -- I am simplifying somewhat -- I am a columnist. Kempton was a man of the left, but his politics were beside the point. The reason for reading him was the pleasure of a distinctive, sometimes mordant sensibility expressed in deliciously sinewy prose, such as this 75-word sentence from a 1956 column on a visit by President Eisenhower to Florida: "In Miami, he had walked carefully by the harsher realities, speaking some 20 feet from an airport drinking fountain labeled 'Colored' and saying that the condition it represented was more amenable to solution by the hearts of men than by laws, and complimenting Florida as 'typical today of what is best in America,' a verdict which might seem to some contingent on finding out what happened to the Negro snatched from the Wildwood jail Sunday." When Washington superlawyer Edward Bennett Williams defended Jimmy Hoffa, Kempton wrote: "To watch Williams and then to watch a Department of Justice lawyer contending with him is to understand the essential superiority of free enterprise to government ownership." Such lapidary judgments, which are found in every Kempton column, made him my kind of man of the left.
Read about all five books on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue