Book Critic Matt Taibbi of the NY Press has great fun trashing Thomas Friedman’s new book THE WORLD IS FLAT. I’ve never read Friedman, and never will, but I thought the review was hilarious. Here’s an excerpt:
Friedman is such a genius of literary incompetence that even his most innocent passages invite feature-length essays. I’ll give you an example, drawn at random
from The World Is Flat. On page 174, Friedman is describing a flight he took on Southwest Airlines from Baltimore to Hartford, Connecticut. (Friedman never forgets to name the company or the brand name; if he had written The Metamorphosis, Gregor Samsa would have awoken from uneasy dreams in a Sealy Posturepedic.) Here’s what he says:
I stomped off, went through security, bought a Cinnabon, and glumly sat at the back of the B line, waiting to be herded on board so that I could hunt for space in the overhead bins.
Forget the Cinnabon. Name me a herd animal that hunts. Name me one.
This would be a small thing were it not for the overall pattern. Thomas Friedman does not get these things right even by accident. It’s not that he occasionally screws up and fails to make his metaphors and images agree. It’s that he always screws it up. He has an anti-ear, and it’s
absolutely infallible; he is a Joyce or a Flaubert in reverse, incapable of rendering even the smallest details without genius. The difference between Friedman and an ordinary bad writer is that an ordinary bad writer will, say, call some businessman a shark and have him say some tired, uninspired piece of
dialogue: Friedman will have him spout it. And that’s guaranteed, every
single time. He never misses.
Taibbi doesn’t just take potshots at Friedman — he also analyzes the substance of Friedman’s thesis, such as it is. But for me, this review will always hold a special place in my heart for this observation:
Friedman is a person who not only speaks in malapropisms, he also hears
malapropisms. Told level; heard flat. This is the intellectual version of Far Out Space Nuts, when NASA repairman Bob Denver sets a whole sitcom in motion by pressing "launch" instead of "lunch" in a space capsule. And once he hits that button, the rocket takes off.
Surely, this is the first time Bob Denver and FAR OUT SPACE NUTS have ever been referred to in literary criticism…and I, for one, hope it’s not the last.