The Third Rail of Calling ‘Sexism’ by Rebecca Traister
The endless frustration of the media’s coverage of political campaigns continued this past week as policy discussions (not to mention the ongoing criminality of the amoral marauders currently occupying the White House) were largely set aside to eagerly pursue an inconsequential squabble between two candidates who almost entirely agree. Even putting aside the likelihood that the reportorial astonishment about freshly unearthed behind-the-scenes discussion was likely hogwash, there was an especially nettlesome aspect to the need to contrive drama. Think pieces and cable pundit pontification proliferated, all musing about the electability of a female candidate. As usual, when arriving at the intersection of gender and politics, Rebecca Traister provides the most useful reflection. This piece was published at The Cut.
Dreyer’s English: An Utterly Correct Guide to Clarity and Style (2019) by Benjamin Dreyer
The chief copy editor at Random House assembles his basic rules and guidelines for strong writing, and it is an absolute delight. I will readily concede, however, that, to deploy a cliched metaphor that would surely cause Benjamin Dreyer to deploy his editing pen, mileage may vary. I was thoroughly enamored with the astute breakdown of language usage and the chapters that tick through words and phrases most likely to set writers stumbling. Mostly, I appreciated the way Dreyer’s views are founded on a principle of crafting work that is consistently engaging and highly readable. Rather than setting up rigid, persnickety rules that can lead to painfully tortured sentences (Dreyer is happy to discard some of the most timeworn strictures), he repeatedly stresses crafting writing that is clean, clear, and consistent. Every rule can be excepted if doing so will improve the finished work. Except the serial comma. And I agree with him on that, too.
The Undoing Project (2016) by Michael Lewis
One of Michael Lewis’s specialities as a writer is shrewd assessments of figures who spend a lot of time thinking about the way we think. So it makes sense — it indeed has the air of inevitability — that Lewis found his way to Israeli scholars Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky. The duo conducted transformational research demonstrated all the faulty ways human beings observe and process reality, and the shaky decision-making that often results, driving society into disrepair. As usual, Lewis demonstrates an uncommon skills for taking incredibly complex material and getting it as close as possible to broadly understandable. He also proves to be a skilled biographer (if fairly surface-level in his examination), tracing the genesis, prosperity, and eventual dissolution of the partnership with a keen eye.