Monday, December 31, 2007

Dear Diary, I Think I'm in Love

Review of "Journals 1952-2000" by Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr:

This is a bad, vain, dull, repulsive book. Don't read it. I didn't.

Oops, have I committed the previous sentence to print? I've just broken the most sacred vow of book reviewers. I've confessed to not reading the book I'm reviewing. Jonathan Yardley will stalk me through the streets armed with his razor-sharp critique. The Library of Congress building will come crashing down upon my head. My career is over. But before I go to my doom, let me try to explain.

You see there was this fellow, Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr., who died early this year and is on his way to being forgotten but who, unfortunately, isn't quite there yet. Schlesinger spent some of his time being a Harvard historian and all of his time kissing the behinds of rich people, famous people, and people who were powerful in the Democratic party. He accomplished only one thing of note. (If you don't count his unfinished, multivolume history of the FDR administration and his A Thousand Days buncombe about JFK, and you certainly shouldn't.)

In 1945, Schlesinger went back in time to retro-behind-kiss Andrew Jackson. He wrote The Age of Jackson, glorifying the ignorant backwoods thug who perpetrated genocide upon the Indians, created the spoils system in Washington, and fathered that bastard political party of rum, rebellion, and Hillary Rodham. The rest of Schlesinger's life was spent engaged in such activities as being a speechwriter for Adlai Stevenson and in doing things even less important than that, if you can imagine any.

So this Schlesinger fellow kept what you and I would call a diary but what, when Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr., Harvard professor, special assistant to President John F. Kennedy, and winner of the National Book Award and the Pulitzer Prize (twice each), does it, is called Journals. He scribbles away from 1952 until 2000, producing some 6,000 pages, which his sons Andrew and Stephen--and bless them for it--have condensed. The resulting tome is no thicker than the average skull on the current generation of Kennedys. And honest, I meant to read it all. I did get through the entire first paragraph. Here's an excerpt from it concerning the Jefferson-Jackson Day dinner of March 29, 1952:

Continued here (The Weekly Standard, dated 31 December 2007)