December 8th, 2010


Book review (in progress): Moynihan

I've started to read "Daniel Patrick Moynihan: A Portrait in Letters of an American Visionary" edited by Steven R. Weisman. This is, as the subtitle says, an epistolary biography of the man I grew up thinking of as "my" senator.

Moynihan's writing is brilliant. Of course he's writing to curry favor and present himself well, but he does it with such flair and depth that it's breathtaking. I will probably end up buying a copy of this book so that I can return to these letters, which provide an education in the sciences of rhetoric, government, and American history of the latter half of the 20th century.

Weisman's writing, on the other hand, is horrid. Here's his opening sentence: "Daniel Patrick Moynihan led a singularly American life, but it was a life unlike any other in modern America." And his introductions to many of the letters are mere summaries, omitting the essential context (who is this person and what is the "unfortunate incident" to which DPM refers?) and far too often quoting the punchline of the letter, robbing it of its impact.

But Moynihan, O my Moynihan. To think that our Republic was once led by such as ye.