In Praise of Contrarians?

Of course, you deserve to be reading some items from the New York Times, right?

This gem comes from a review of Max Beerbohm, a man I have rarely encountered, but just might have to pick up his selected essays after all:

Each of these humans seems to have been guided by the principle articulated by Kingsley Amis: “If you can’t annoy somebody with what you write, I think there’s little point in writing.”

Nowadays we have many writers who can rise to the occasion when called upon and, like volunteer firefighters in reverse, burn a stupid thing to the ground. But we have far fewer essayists of the sort you can point in almost any direction and be certain they’d return merrily gnawing on the bones of the topic as if it were a tub of fried chicken.

The world could use more of these — not the vulgar sort — but just folks that can apply wit without sarcasm.

Then again, appreciation for the essayist is in vogue.  Montaigne the Proto-Blogger seems to be a lodestar of sorts for just the right kind of example, even if folks rarely if ever dedicate the time to sit and read at leisure anymore (which is a shame).

UPDATE:  Just in case you were looking for more writing advice and that sort of thing, Umberto Eco would like to pull you aside for a moment:

[Avoid] the exclamation point to emphasize a statement. This is not appropriate in a critical essay… It is allowed once or twice, if the purpose is to make the reader jump in his seat and call his attention to a vehement statement like, “Pay attention, never make this mistake!” But it is a good rule to speak softly. The effect will be stronger if you simply say important things.

Worth a read.

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