on November 26, 2002
I have never been a big fan of George Will. I had only known him as the lone conservative at the end of Newsweek Magazine. Then I saw him on Leno or Letterman and figured that someone that articulate saying things I don't like to hear must be worth reading.
I was right. "With A Happy Eye But . . ." is a glorious romp through some selected republcan rantings worth reading. Although I still do not agree with a lot of what he says, I did find that I agreed with a lot of it as well. My favorite sections of the book (and he has several by topic) were Justice and Injustice, The World, and People. I found those to be the most enlightening and most enjoyable. His section on campaign finance reform was also eye opening but the jury is still out on whether he totally convinces me or not.
Be sure to have a dictionary handy because every third essay he indroduces a new five dollar word that he will most likely use 3 to four times in other essays that follw. He uses words and phrases like crackerjack prizes - until the novelty has worn off.
All in all, a satisfying read, absorbing, and contentious.
George Will has written a lot of books, and this is definitely ... one of them.
What that means is that if you already have an opinion of George Will, "With a Happy Eye, But..." probably won't change it much one way or the other. His politics are much the same. His long-time concerns are still in the front of his mind. And his voice (self-assured if you like it, pompous if you don't) is as distinctive as ever. Will's fans will want to add this book to their collection. If you're not a fan, the columns here collected may not convert you.
This title helps cement Will's reputation as America's leading spokesman for (as I once heard Buckley described) "conservatism of a sort." The columns include his argument that "Capitalism is a Government Project" (p. 222), his endorsement of General Sherman's war of extermination against the South as a model for defeating terrorism (p. 71), and his defense of "the seamlessness of cultural memory" (p. 184). I was glad to see his memorable and important "Clinton's Legacy: An Adjective" (p. 237) printed here in its entirety, not in the bowdlerized form in which it appeared in several newspapers.
Given the time span this book covers (1997-2002), I was surprised there aren't more columns about the three central events of the era: impeachment, the 2000 elections, and September 11, 2001. Will wrote a lot more about them at the time, of course, but only a select few columns made the cut into this book. As in any collection, a lot of ground is covered, from politics to pop culture. Over time, many of the "news hooks" these columns are based on will fade -- if they haven't already faded -- from memory. But even then, the real value, Will's ability to articulate his principles, will stand out all the more.
on September 4, 2002
The Publishers Weekly editorial book review printed here by Amazon shows how the extreme hard core left wing detests the popularity of books with a straight-forward, consevative view. However, this book will join Coulter's and Hannity's as a best seller and for good reason - it is well written and provides a view of recent events that is not presented by ABC, CBS, NBC or many daily newspapers. This is an interesting and well written book for anyone, regardless of your political perspective. Recommended.
on June 24, 2009
George Will's seventh collection of columns covers the period from 1997 to 2002, and the opening essay that Will wrote describes the prosperous "holiday from history" that Americans enjoyed until 9/11/01, when the terrorist attacks injected big, consequential questions back into our political discussions.
This collection includes more than just columns--there are a couple of commencement addresses, as well as a great speech Will delivered at Princeton concerning cultural literacy and the importance of reading.
As has been the case for decades, ethical and moral questions have abounded in American life, and some of the columns the author wrote around the turn of the century addressed issues such as stem cell research, privacy, abortion, and school prayer. Will devoted several columns each to education and to the free speech issues involved in the fight over campaign finance reform.
American conservatism lost a giant in 1998 with the passing of Barry Goldwater, and Will wrote a column remembering the Arizonan's contributions to conservatism and to the nation. Some of the other people that Will devoted columns to during these years include Princess Diana, Vince Lombardi, C.S. Lewis, John Adams, Daniel Patrick Moynihan, and James Madison.
Five of Will's year-end columns are here as well, rounding out yet another great collection of writings by one of American conservatism's indispensable thinkers.
on May 29, 2007
George Will's "With a Happy Eye But...: America and the World, 1997-2002" is a collection of select George Will columns during the turn of the century. (There are also a few longer pieces in the book, such as the text of a few commencement speeches he made during this time.) Most of the columns cover the hot issues of the day - Clinton's impeachment, Kosovo, partial birth abortion, education, 9/11 and terrorism - especially where those intersect with George Will's pet issues, such as campaign finance reform. There is also a collection of his "biographical" columns on famous or interesting personalities, such as Patrick Moynihan and author Patrick O'Brian. Still, reading these columns, written to advocate positions and influence readers, one can see that George Will often over-stated his position or overplayed his hand (missile defense really did not end up being the most important issues of the 1990s), but this is also a nature of the columnist.
I was also disappointed that the book did not include any of George Will's columns on the 2000 election fiasco. I remember that Will's columns during the post-election fight were, as usual, cogent, insightful, and stinging. I wanted to keep a contemporary account of this debacle, but none of these columns made the book.
Despite these minor drawbacks, anyone who is even moderately a George Will fan or a political junkie should buy this book both as a collection of his columns and a snapshot of America at the turn of the century.
on May 3, 2004
A nice collection of the articles of George Will. If you are a fan of Mr. Will's writing, you will enjoy this book. If you are not familiar with his writing, this book would be a great introduction to his writing.
This book contains a cross section of how Mr. Will views America, from it's people to events, from controversies to it's pastimes.
on September 25, 2002
There are so few personalities as George F. Will, especially in the media. This book is such hard to accept truth I believe that it wouldn't have been published if not for his position. A careful blend of research and rational philosophy generates a radical point of view. The research done and revealed will not be found anywhere else unless you go digging yourself. This is truly a surprising read, I have to say, George is a very sharp personality not fearing critisism as he knows more than the critic. Recommend reading a book that contains this same character and philosophy on the subject, SB: 1 or God by Karl Maddox.
on February 2, 2003
A must read for all Americans.
on April 20, 2009
Mr. Will, what you've just wrote is one of the most insanely idiotic things I have ever heard. At no point in your rambling, incoherent book were you even close to anything that could be considered a rational thought. Everyone who read your book is now dumber for having read it. I award you no stars, and may God have mercy on your soul.
on April 25, 2003
As an ardent reactionary, I used to be optimistic about the future of the conservative-liberal political wars. My optimism was based on a Darwinian analysis.
I considered liberals in their natural state: squeaky, bearded, granola-eating, ever-accommodating she-males and hairy, snarling, oppressive, leathery, liberated females. I reasoned happily that conservatives would win because liberals would be incapable of reproducing, due to the absence of sexual differentiation. They would not even have the opportunity to abort their young.
But now look at what's happening to conservatives - the same frightening trend toward androgyny that is occurring in larger society. Conservatives have their own male-endangering dominatrices in the guises of Laura Ingraham, Kathleen Parker, Wendy McElroy, Peggy Noonan, Jessica Gavora and Suzanne Fields (to name just a few). And the conservative roster of ineffectual males includes Sean Hannity...and George Will.
Will's brand of conservatism matches perfectly with his preening appearance and mannerisms and with the neutered condition that makes him popular as the unthreatening "house conservative" on the Sunday talk shows. Really, he would not be out of place in 18th century clothing and a powdered wig.
Will has been around for a number of years so this volume entitled "With a Happy Eye" is just the latest addition to his substantial collection of wig powder.
He shares the proper and natural conservative distaste for Bill Clinton - dismissing him not as the country's worst president but as the worst man ever to become president. Will's epitaph of Clinton might well match history's, but it's based solely on his aristocratic contempt for Clinton's vulgarity.
The episodes in this country's Clinton chapter caused a number of conservatives to invoke a number of manly and conservative values (duty, honor, principle) as a means of explaining their opposition to Clinton and Gore, but Will will have none of this. He describes the core conservative virtue as "prudence, which means facing facts and understanding practicalities".
Disregarding the Burkean notion of society existing as a means of elevating its members, Will castigates conservatives who would "dissolve the people and elect another". In other words, the principal function of conservatives is to conserve existing evils introduced by liberals. Elbert Hubbard was anticipating George Will when he described a conservative as someone too cowardly to fight and too fat to run.
Will is a baseball fan and that's another saving grace. But he disdains the machismo of football as an example of two major flaws in American society: violence and committee meetings. Well, la-de-da.
And Will's horror of radical social innovation is selective. He insists that the so-called "emancipation of women" - probably the most radical and unconservatively disruptive of all
"reforms" - is one of the country's finest ongoing social achievements.
If a men's movement ever got off the ground - and, here and there, there sometimes appear signs of one burgeoning - would Will display equal enthusiasm for the emancipation of men? Would he even acknowledge the existence of the Matriarchy? Or would he yet again switch gears and suddenly remember once again that conservatives are supposed to OPPOSE radical social innovation?
Well, he capitulates utterly in his discussion of female athleticism (which he FAVORS), suggesting that the competitive spirit that it nurtures (which he thinks is a GOOD thing) is responsible for the rise in the numbers of female professionals (which he ALSO thinks is a GOOD thing). Hence, the rampant discrimination against boys in the classroom and the unconservative war against boys taking place in larger society never enter into his consideration of why fewer of them, relative to girls, are achieving.
In the end, even Will's distaste for Clinton-like vulgarity is selective. He beams admiringly on one youthful female field hockey player who waxes vulgar over her performance.
You might think that the aristocratic foppish conservative would summon a measure of reprobation against such unfeminine expletive, but Will blesses her for her competitive spirit and gently expresses the hope and expectation that womanhood will nurture this spirit while smoothing away her crudity. If Will really thinks that females are ennobled and uplifted by competitiveness and emancipation and if he thinks that they are purged of vulgarity by the advent of womanhood, he obviously hasn't met any competitive and emancipated women.
George Will is one of several reasons why this reviewer, forever a reactionary at heart, has become disillusioned with that passes for conservatism today. It's becoming more and more clear that if the emancipation of MEN from female hegemony is to be the country's foremost achievement of the 21st century, the conventional philosophies offered up by left and right will have to be discarded and that something else will have to take their places.