With a Happy Eye But . . .: America and the World, 1997--2002by George F. Will, George Will
In the introduction to this, the seventh collection of the newspaper and magazine columns, book reviews, speeches, and occasional writings of George Will, he notes the bemusement with which some may react to his choice of title. W. H. Auden wrote his poem The Horatians from which the following lines are taken: We can only do what it seems to us we were made for, look at this world with a happy eye but from a sober perspective. The poem was written in 1968. It was a year notable in the United States for assassination, riot, war, and political violence unseen for the preceeding 100 years. If humanity could be instructed to view that world with a happy eye, can America today do any less, faced with the clearest and most coherent expression of national unity since the Second World War? With a Happy Eye But ... is both a clear description of the attitude that informs these collected pieces (and the attitude of their creator) and an admonition to Americans.
For while it is true that the proper response to the carnage of September 11, 2001, is not pessimism, but sober optimism, it is also true that the events largely covered in this collection do not describe a nation overwhelmed by the virtues of sobriety. The three-year period bracketed by Time magazine's choice for Person of the Year for 1998 (Bill Clinton and Kenneth Starr) and for 2001 (Rudolph Giuliani) is evidence of a dramatic change in the American psyche ... a change for the better.
And so it is with a happy eye indeed that Will, America's most honored and by far its most widely read political columnist, has collected the best of more than five years of his observations on politics, the economy, justice, international relations, and symptomatic events such as the public reaction to the death of Princess Diana. It is frequently a sobering critique of the last five years: the Clinton years, from Whitewater to Hurricane Monica to the impeachment trial; the endless demagoguery of the champions of campaign finance reform; the election of 2000; 9/11/2001. But it is anything but sober. Here is Will on fashion ("Yes, yes, we have been told. Philosophers tell us that change is life's only constant. Poets tell us that the center cannot hold, and all that is beautiful drifts away like the waters. Scientists say even the continents are adrift. But Brooks Brothers, the clothier founded in Manhattan in 1818, was supposed to be the still point of the turning world"). On celebrating his 60th birthday ("It has taken me 60 years to identify the three keys to a happy life -- a flourishing family, hearty friends, and a strong bullpen"). On Catcher in the Rye's Holden Caulfield ("Like Ulysses he was a wanderer. And that exhausts Holden's resemblance to anyone heroic. By declaring reality a terrible disappointment, he helped teach America's youth how to pout"). And, of course, on baseball ("For America west of the Hudson, the best thing about a Subway Series is that it guarantees that millions of New York baseball fans -- the followers of whichever team loses -- are going to be depressed"). Here are profiles of C. S. Lewis, Joe DiMaggio, and James Madison, and touching obituaries for Will's mentor, Meg Greenfield, and his father, Professor Frederick Will. A brilliantly diverse collection from an extraordinarily diverting mind, With a Happy Eye But ... is the nation's best known commentator at his sober -- and happy -- best.
- Free Press
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- 6.44(w) x 9.57(h) x 1.25(d)
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