Robert Stein 1924-2014

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Sunday, December 30, 2012

A Year of Wretched Excess

Will 2012 read like a hospital chart of a body politic overheated to delirium just before its Tea Party fever breaks and a long recovery begins?

At the Cliff, it’s hard to separate perspective from wishful thinking, but is there no way left to go but down? The President is optimistic, but then again he usually is.

Where we are now recalls a three-pound doorstop from my brief career as a book publisher in the early 1970s when I oversaw “Smiling Through the Apocalypse: Esquire’s History of the Sixties,” edited by my departed friend Harold Hayes, who had fostered the New Journalism during that turbulent decade.

To dramatize how American society was breaking down and reconstituting itself, Hayes recruited novelists as reporters (Norman Mailer, Gore Vidal) and turned journalists into narrative writers (Tom Wolfe, William F. Buckley, Gay Talese, Nora Ephron).

In that period, one of the magazine’s wry categories of comment about the absurdities of public life was headed Wretched Excess, and it comes to mind now as I savor this century’s quirky equivalent of attempting to dive under the media surface of events and bring up buried treasure of insight, the Jon Swift Memorial Roundup 2012 (The Best Posts of the Year, Chosen by the Bloggers Themselves).

As we no-name scribblers plumb the year of Mitt Romney, Paul Ryan and Rick Santorum, of Superstorm Sandy and the Sandy Hook school gun horror, of Generals’ sex scandals and their underlings’ new freedom of sexual orientation, of ferment everywhere in the culture, we may not match the literary quality of those iconic artists, but our intentions are comparable.

The passion and whole-heartedness of those bloggers will reward your attention and perhaps revive some hope for the future.

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