24th February 2013
John Derbyshire, Patron Saint of Dyspepsia, waxes poetic.
Interesting and unusual quality books, fiction and nonfiction alike, used to make a huge splash, and that “used to” is not so long ago. In 2001 everyone seemed to be reading McCullough’s biography of John Adams; and before that, Charles Frazier’s novel Cold Mountain. A few years earlier, it was Patrick O’Brian’s sea stories if you wanted to keep your end up at dinner parties—I read the first 17 of them seriatim. (And a biography to boot.) Even further back, in the 1970s, you could get a conversation going with lower-middle-class cube jockeys about James Clavell’s Shogun or Julian Jaynes’s Origin of Consciousness. It’s been a decade and a half since I worked in a business office, but I feel pretty sure they’re not talking about books around the water cooler nowadays.