Another Falling Bridge

While we await some new Rick Perlstein news (coming next week, stay tuned), it is worth noting another highly critical review of the book from the left. Jacob Weisberg takes aim in The Invisible Bridge in the Democracy Journal, a smart liberal journal edited by Michael Tomasky.

Here are a couple of samples:

[T]he reader finishes Perlstein’s very long book with the unsatisfying feeling that the author has not only failed to prove [his thesis], but also never quite developed it. His method is not political history head-on, but a sort of cultural chronicle, which exhaustively recounts the news on an almost day-by-day basis. . . rather than present a case about how social unraveling led to Reagan’s rise, Perlstein indulges the newsmagazine writer’s habit of substituting glib narrative for coherent argument. . .

Perlstein pays a lot of attention to cinema, but little to TV, still less to pop music, and none at all to literature. How can one write a cultural history of the 1970s without delving into “All in the Family,” Born to Run, or John Updike? In evoking the mood of the period, Perlstein applies a wheelbarrow to a task Joan Didion accomplished far more effectively with a teaspoon. . .

As a political history, The Invisible Bridge suffers from more serious deficiencies: a lack of interest in character, and a failure to engage seriously with ideas. Both Nixon and Reagan appear here as flat figures, for whom the author musters no human sympathy and about whom he offers no fresh understanding. . .

The second, more serious problem is the author’s tendency to pathologize conservative views rather than reckon with them. . . If he were willing to look more critically at the left, the way he does at the right, Perlstein might give more weight to the visible bridge of Reagan’s stated views.

There’s much more in Weisberg’s review, but this is enough to leave a mark. Now back to Naomi Klein. . .

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