The Public Interest


Wilfred M. McClay

Spring 2002

A FEW years ago, a distinguished American art critic was asked whether he would agree with the assertion that in America today there is more poetry being published than is being read. No, the critic answered, that misstated the problem.  It would be more precise to say that there is more poetry being published than is being written. A similar observation is likely to force itself upon the reader who slogs through the pages of Public Intellectuals: A Study of Decline, † Judge Richard Posner’s sprawling and disheveled livre du jour, an extrusion of words so incoherent and exasperatingly flawed that one hardly knows where to begin the process of criticizing it, or whether it is even worth the trouble. Posner is nothing if not prolific, producing books at the same rate that polygamous sultans produce heirs, all the while carrying on a career as a federal appellate judge. There cannot help but be something important lost in the process.

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