The Plank

Black On Nixon

By and

If like 99% of all reasonable people you dislike either Conrad Black or Richard Nixon, it's worth reading Anthony Holden's hilarious review in The Times Literary Supplement of Black's new Nixon biography (which comes in at only 1152 pages).

Black loves Nixon (both men were victimized by The Establishment, after all) and Holden has fun doing some psychologizing. But it's Black's writing that comes in for the most abuse:

His exasperating prose style throbs with such phrases as the "boosterish scatology" of Nixon's school and the "rubesville environment" of his home town. When the Watergate tapes become public, the "shrieks of outrage" that greet the expletives deleted from the President's tape-recorded conversations amount to "another herniating levitation of pandemic hypocrisy". The problem with such infelicities transcends mere literary taste; they reek of ugly authorial sneers, as when commentators of whom he disapproves (usually "left-leaning") are "stentorian in their laudations" of "self-serving claptrap" such as the observance of laws. In his first forty pages alone, like an adolescent reaching beyond his grasp for heightened effect, Black makes questionable use of such words as "collegiate", "comported", "canvass", "proselytizing", "verdant", "provenance", "resistless" and "abrasions". Later he deploys "exceptionable", "indefectible", "integrality" and "disconcertion". Musical readers will be as surprised at Nixon's ability to play "the piano sections of symphonies" as poker-players that this wily cardsharp used to "bid" rather than bet.

--Isaac Chotiner

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