July 27, 2007


PeggyNoonan.JPGWhen I grow up, I want to write just like Peggy Noonan. Plain. Direct. Incisive. Elegently simple.

I fequently find myself noding my head as I read her pieces. Often I agree with nothing she says. Sometimes she angers me.

But the way she says what she sees and believes entrances me almost every time. Much in the same way that P.J. O'Rourke and Fran Leibowiz did during my college days. Or how Henry Allen, Christopher Hitchens, Anthony Bourdain and Tom Junod do now. They hear with different ears. Their fingers type words that everyone uses but that, coming from them, mean different things. Their pieces have their own atmosphere, a unique rhythm. You can read them over and over and notice new treasure each time. The phrases are muscular, but the reasoning is lithe and limber.

Noonan, a former Reagan speechwriter, writes regularly for the Wall Street Journal opinion section. But her views are far closer to centrist these days than not. And when she sees things that she thinks are important from a cultural standpoint, she says so, regardless of the political geography from which it originates. Like this column, for example.

Cellphones are wonderful, but they empower the obnoxious and amplify the ignorant. Once they kept their thoughts to themselves. They had no choice. Now they have cellphones, into which they bark, "I'm on line at Duane Reade. Yeah. Ex-Lax." Oh, thank you for sharing. How much less my life would be if I didn't know. BlackBerrys empower the obsessed. We wouldn't have them if the economy weren't high and we weren't pretty well off.

Once, a political figure in New York invited me to a private dinner. I was seated next to him, and as the table conversation took off he leaned back, quietly took out his BlackBerry, and began to scroll. It occurred to me that if I said something live in person, it would not be as interesting to him as if I'd BlackBerryed him. It occurred to me that if I wanted to talk to him I'd have to BlackBerry him and say, "Please talk to me." And then he would get the message.

It is possible that we are on the cellphone because we are lonely and hunger for connection, even of the shallowest kind; that we BlackBerry because we hope for a sense of control in a chaotic world; that we are frightened of stillness and must interrupt conversations; that we are desperate to make the sale in the highly competitive environment of the Banana Republic on 86th Street and must aggressively pursue customers.

Posted by Jeff at July 27, 2007 09:58 AM | TrackBack
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