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What Are Intellectuals Good For by George Scialabba

George Scialabba's "What Are Intellectuals Good For?"

A review by Philip Christman

"I find conscientious qualification much sexier than resonant exaggeration," writes George Scialabba, and he's not kidding. This book, culled from nearly thirty years' worth of reviews for magazines like the Boston Review and Agni, is proof. For a writer as intelligent as Scialabba, forced by inclination or happenstance to chart his intellectual evolution in 400-3000-word chunks, polemical distortion must present an appalling temptation, but he has mastered it. Once in a while his scrupulous care with others' arguments is even a little exhausting: reading his magisterial takedown of William F. Buckley, for example, I felt a simultaneous admiration and dismay, as if I were watching the world's greatest epidemiologist patiently explain disease-causation to a mountebank.

Scialabba writes as if he's trying by sheer example value to will a smarter, more honest, more aesthetically and morally sensitive Left into being. Such a Left would replace the one whose twentieth-century failures -- ...



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Changing My Mind: Occasional Essays by Zadie Smith

What Are Intellectuals Good For by George Scialabba




Founded in 2000, Identity Theory is a regularly updated online publication that publishes reviews of literary fiction, poetry, and contemporary non-fiction from presses both small and large.

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