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Essays that should be studied at school and universities
on February 22, 2010
Around 90% of this book can be read for free online (just search in the New Yorker website). The essays were either past blogs by Hertzberg or his contribution to the Comments section of the magazine, which I think he corners at least once every month. (Hertzberg is a New Yorker columnist, essentially). Most of them are also available as free audio podcasts, read professionally and nicely. (See the New Yorker Podcasts Channel in iTunes). Lastly, if you already subscribe to the New Yorker (as I do), ideally, you shouldn't buy this book any more.
But I recommend that you still procure one. Why?
1) The introductory essay is one of the most solid, concise, well-knit introduction that Ive seen in a collection of essays or stories in general. How Hendrik Hertzberg dispensed "I value political liberty and political rights (freedom of thought, speech)... highly than economic liberty, and econonomic rights (property rights...)... so Im a Liberal." is brilliant. It's a perfect demo how to put away the preliminaries before diving into specifics. It's also a way to draw the line between that proverbial conservative-liberal divide in a few words.
2) The chronological presentation of the essays substitutes for a very good chronicle, from the groundwork to the peak, of a historical milestone. Without waiting weekly, the essays leading to the Obama presidency is presented in succession. The first essay was about the Democratic Convention for Kerry's campaign, where Obama delivered the convention speech, and then the last two: a celebratory essay on Obama's win and a very solid New Yorker editorial entitled "The Choice." That essay is only the second time the magazine endorsed a candidate explicitly.
3) It is cited in another review that the absence of New Yorker's typeface and column layout makes "Hertzberg's fury naked to the eye." At times, imposing, but most of the time, Hertzberg demonstrates how surgeon-like argumentative essays should be chucked out.
The essays' structure, finesse humor, the literary cadence, the manner of exposition of facts, conciseness, are all brilliant. These pieces should be studied in universities and writing workshops.