From Publishers Weekly
It's hard to say that this is really New Conservative Writing. What makes David Shiflett's musings on his dog's castration or Danielle Crittenden's on drugged childbirth "conservative"? Maybe "Writings by New Conservatives" would be a better subtitle, but then again, are P.J. O'Rourke, Charles Murray and Donald Kagan really "newer" than Dinesh D'Souza or Glenn Loury or others who aren't represented? Which isn't to say the writing isn't good: it is. It's just that the title and a cover blurb by William Bennett about "the most interesting political ideas" seem misleading. Most pieces are less in-depth analysis than witticism a la the Wall Street Journal's Middle Column. Also, given the rhetoric about self-involved liberals contemplating their collective navel, it's unfortunate that so many issues are addressed through the synechdoche of the individual: Fred Barnes writing on freedom and his four cars or Joe Queenan's (listed in Who's Who as a Democrat, by the way) revelations from his week as a smoker. There are a few more thought-provoking pieces, such as Peggy Noonan's on boomer angst and Bennett's own on "The Moral Origins of the Urban Crisis." Ultimately, though, most of the essays are too short or too popular to give a real sense of the complexities of conservative thought.
Copyright 1995 Reed Business Information, Inc.
Readers of opinion journalism will recognize most of Brooks' contributors, whose pieces here date from the dawn of Clinton. Yet, politics and antiliberalism seem to be the lesser of these writers' concerns; their greater focus is on personal rights and responsibilities, some examined satirically. Take the antismoking advocates. Movie critic Joe Queenan annoys them on a combative gambol around Manhattan, lighting up in Madison Avenue boutiques and Times Square peep show stalls, where he discovers a democracy of righteous indignation: put it out! Can the men's movement stand up to Andrew Ferguson's ridicule after he attended a drum-beating retreat? Other more or less serious articles decry the clinicalization of love or the loosening of stigmas that once held in check unmarried pregnancies, dependence on government largess, or even crime. The latter sets off Jeffrey Snyder's inspired, if not altogether convincing, harangue against gun control. And so politics is not, refreshingly, this collection's guiding star; it is instead the essayists' common belief in conservative elements of human nature, expressed through pungent observations of current American culture. An opportune browser. Gilbert Taylor