Good to see you're right on top of things ;pPosted by jeff at December 9, 2004 1:26 PM
I've been voting for you too, Gerald. In the interests of full disclosure I should admit that I have been splitting my vote.Posted by Dave Schuler at December 9, 2004 3:28 PM
I confess to nominating you.
Since the demise of Steven Den Beste, you are the undisputed King of essays.
Bill Whittle might have an edge in raw power, but your freqency and consistency puts you on top.
Lileks has a way with words, but he can't stay on topic for more than a paragraph.
VDH - I find his writing style a little dry.
Dooce & Simon - I've never read them. Should I?
Postrel - she's good, but lacks your impish sense of humor.
It's you, Gerard.
It's you.Posted by Harvey at December 9, 2004 9:55 PM
Well, thank you. I have to confess I'm flattered to be included in the list no matter what the reason.
My two top picks would have to be Victor Hanson and James Lileks.
Hanson because of his scholarship and passion coupled with a lucid style and an insight unseen among thousands of others who pass themselves off as "intellectuals." Hanson is the real deal as far as intellectuals go and grounded in the land, in history, and as a citizen. He is, far and away, the finest American voice writing political and historical essays today.
Lileks is also top shelf. His ongoing journal of his life, especially when you've followed it across the years, is always rich and rewarding. I've said before that, should he ever commit fiction as well as essays, it would quickly become clear that he's the current inheritor of Mark Twain. He not only gets to the heart and soul of the culture, he revels in it.
As far as "staying on topic" you have to remember that we're looking at a daily Pepys-like journal of his life with the Bleat. His day job as a columnist stays, as much as columnists do, pretty much on topic. And as much as I love his books and other pop cultural obsessions, I can't help but feel he's got larger things in him and something really surprising ahead. He's the one to watch for distance.
Den Beste? Well, nobody could touch him when he was on his game, but he's also got a chillier tone and is cursed with the engineer's need to be right and accurate at all times. He's good to read because he has a first rate mind and a breadth of knowledge. But, both fortuneately and unfortunately, he's far too willing to "share." Still, I have a lot of admiration for him as a skilled worker in the long form.
Whittle. I'm always moved by Whittle but he needs to come to bat much more frequently. Slamming one over the fence every few months is satisfying and always thrilling to watch, but he needs to know how to make the singles and doubles as well. Indeed, he limits himself in this wise and, as a result, you sometimes get the feeling that his work is "overthought" even if it seems to be coming at you at rant speed.
Simon's very good and a top-level writer especially when he works in the medium range. He's got a lot on his plate right now -- unlike when he started -- and he's somewhat forced to serve up short items that are, at times, almost Reynoldsesque. Nevertheless, when he's on he's clearly among the best.
Dooce? Can't really say. I glanced at his page and it seems to be a sort of Lileks-lite to me on the basis of only a first impression.
Postrel? Like what I've seen but don't read her frequently enough to have an opinion other than that she's workmanlike.
The one absent from the list who should be right up at the top and who is almost always in top form is Wretchard of The Belmont Club. He's got a lot of well-made figures from the classic essay form and he uses them well.
My line up would be Hanson, Lileks and Wretchard in that order. Like I say, it's good to find myself on the same list with them.Posted by Gerard Van der Leun at December 9, 2004 10:25 PM