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With a Happy Eye But . . .: America and the World, 1997--2002

With a Happy Eye But . . .: America and the World, 1997--2002

by 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


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.

Editorial Reviews

The seventh essay collection of Pulitzer Prize-winning commentator George F. Will includes pieces on the Washington political scene; the crisis of the Republican party; Bill Clinton; the election of 2000; cultural icons and fictional heroes; and, of course, baseball. Perceptive, wry, and politely opinionated, Will wins our nomination as the curmudgeon for all seasons.
Publishers Weekly
The fifth collection of conservative pundit Will's columns (The Morning After, etc.) shows his usual erudition (the title comes from Auden), but they seem more outdated this time around. The terrorist attacks figure prominently in an overwrought introduction ("The scream of the incoming aircraft was a howl of negation"), but most of the "current events" addressed the battle between gay activists and the Boy Scouts, pressure on members of the European Union to accept the euro, disabled golfer Casey Martin's fight to use a golf cart on the pro tour feel like curious relics of a pre-September 11 world, and his longstanding complaints about the wickedness of Oliver Stone and the decline of civilization on liberal college campuses come across as cranky grumblings. He gets in plenty of digs at Bill Clinton: "not the worst president the republic has had, but... the worst person ever to have been president"; he even finds occasional fault with George W. Bush (though the worst adjective he can think of to describe Bush's initial waffling over the Enron scandal is "Clintonian"). The final chapters are heartfelt memorials to Will's father and to columnist Meg Greenfield, but one wishes that Will had applied the level of sustained reflection they show to a fuller analysis of one or two subjects, such as the contested 2000 election or the war on terrorism, instead of the jumbled impressions offered here. (Sept.) Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
Library Journal
This book is the seventh volume of Will's collected columns, essays, and addresses to be published since 1978. Given his fame as a syndicated newspaper and Newsweek columnist (he won the Pultizer Prize for commentary in 1976) and as a television personality (he has served as an analyst with ABC News since the early 1980s), readers come to this work with high expectations that are not disappointed. In this book, Will describes contemporary Americans as "naive optimists." Within the context of the Clinton years, the 2000 elections, and the shadow of 9/11, he opines on the inevitability of war, the necessity of the death penalty, the need for the military to remedy moral values, the fundamental flaws of a (liberal) intelligensia "too short on certitude," and his impatience with a society "too squeamish to call evil by its right name." An accomplished essayist, Will provides a model for writing that dismisses alternative viewpoints, and though his writings are valuable to readers across the political spectrum, they may leave liberals spluttering. Recommended for general collections in high school, public, and academic libraries.-Jean S. Caspers, Linfield Coll. Lib., McMinnville, OR
Kirkus Reviews
Columns published over the past five years provide conservative pundit Will's trademark curmudgeonly commentary on the gilded Clinton years and the dawn of the more troubled W. era. King of the Beltway pundits in the 1980s, Will (The Woven Figure, 1997, etc.) was ever so gently dethroned in the '90s. On the right, there were the more red-blooded types, and on the left there was Bill Clinton, unlikely to ever invite George to an Oval Office confab. Will, however, has always been better as a contrarian than an insider. He takes on such distasteful (to him) features of the high '90s as the use of the courts to enforce entitlements, the tastelessness of the first Bubba in the White House (including, of course, the sexual peccadilloes that lead to his impeachment), the unctuousness of the first lady, and the expansion of a bureaucratically powered government into ever-new areas of private life. This time, Will's best essays are on cultural rather than political topics, with particular attention paid to what he sees as the threat to the "seamlessness" of cultural memory embodied in dumbed-down pop culture and "leftist" academic culture. Will's faults are evident in here too: for instance, his tic of larding columns with enough quotations to make Bartlett want to sue. He also has a penchant for intemperate, off-the-cuff anathemas. His conclusion about Clinton, for instance: "the worst person ever to have been president." Really? Worse than, say, slaveholder and would-be ethnic cleanser of Indians Andrew Jackson? The gold standard among conservative columnists remains William F. Buckley Jr., who can be enjoyed as literature even if you don't agree with him; the same cannot be said of Will.Nonetheless, a must-read for aficionados of Beltway journalism.

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Free Press
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Product dimensions:
6.44(w) x 9.57(h) x 1.25(d)

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