Thursday, September 21, 2006

Doomed Internationalist: My TLS review of Francis Fukuyama's 'After the Neocons'

The Times Literary Supplement has published this week Doomed Internationalist, my review of Francis Fukuyama's spring 2006 book, After the Neocons: America at the Crossroads. It is currently up at the TLS website, here.
(Officials such as Jack Straw taking on UK multiculturalism? Is it possible? See post here. Note my discussion of multiculturalism in the middle of the Fukuyama review.)

This is probably the last major review of After the Neocons to appear. I deliberately waited because I wanted to let the bloodletting among pundits and think tankers to die down - maybe you recall the ferocious exchanges in the Washington Post between Charles Krauthammer and Fukuyama over Krauthammer's AEI 2004 speech? And the White House (!) joining in the melee, releasing emails quoting Fukuyama's statements from the Clinton years in favor of removing Saddam? In a book that is partly an intellectual history of neoconservatism as well as a sharp critique, I wanted to hold off a bit and see all the back and forth together.

Unfortunately, I then got distracted writing other stuff, all of which took longer than planned, and was very late getting something to the TLS. Worse, the editor had generously - generously - offered 4,000 words, which by TLS standards is very long (we at the TLS believe in relatively short, clear reviews that actually describe and review the book at issue, and don't simply take the opportunity for a tangent more to the reviewer's liking, unlike, oh, I don't know, the Competition over at the NYRB ...) and I had responded by helping myself to another 5,000 more. I've never done something quite so idiotic writing reviews anywhere - I think I've been doing too much academic writing lacking the proper discipline. 10,000 words for a review? The review was turning into a book.

Anyway, my dear friend John Ryle, anthropology editor of the TLS and chair of the Rift Valley Institute and professor at Bard College, took it over with his usual skill, turned it into the eminently readable prose you see before you today, and got it back down to 4,000 words. With the result that I can't really remember anymore what the x'd 5,000 words said, which shows how important they were(n't) in the end. So many, many thanks to John, and I won't do that to him again. But thanks to John, and to Peter Stothard, the TLS editor, who invited me to write it and gave me a lot of space to develop it. I'm very pleased with it. It had been a while since I had written for the TLS - which I regard as hands-down the greatest of the book reviews - and I'm absolutely delighted to be writing for it again.

1 comment:

Marc Mulholland said...

I enjoyed the review a lot, and have chewed over it (in a critical but, I hope, reasonably respectful way) at my Katheder Blog.

I may be the first blog 'review of the review', but I expect, as with your article, the better reactions are yet maturing.