New York Times columnist David Brooks usually loses me after three paragraphs. He's not only a parody of himself, but a parody of a parody of himself.
However, I do look forward to Brooks' annual Hook awards, which give recognition to notable "long-form" magazine and website articles. Brooks in Friday's paper delivers the first part of this year's awards, named for New York philosopher Sidney Hook.
In the spirit of Brooks, here are some of my favorite columnists.
- Joe Morgenstern, films, the Wall Street Journal. He's taken over for Pauline Kael as the critic I read as much for his prose as for his opinions.
- Paul Krugman, economics, New York Times. Yes, he's repetitive and gives the orthodox liberal viewpoint, but he's informed and persuasive. He's funny, in a dry, sardonic, cornball professor way.
- Matt Taibbi, Rolling Stone. He combines knowledge with a gift for ridicule and satire. A must read on economics and politics, and he's easily available through Rolling Stone emails. As an aside, kudos to Rolling Stone, New York magazine, Vanity Fair, Paris Review and Esquire for keeping their websites free, unlike the New Yorker, Washington Post and Boston Globe. As a longtime New Yorker subscriber, I should have access to its web site, but you need to be a hacker to figure out how to crack it.
- Frank Rich, New York magazine. Frank's frequent Q and A sessions with one of the magazine's editors give some of the best commentary on politics and culture. How did The New York Times let him go?
- Charles Pierce, Esquire. Pierce's blend of satire, indignation and insight make him indispensable. Sometimes he goes awry, but overall he's solid.
- Thomas Friedman, New York Times. I agree with all of the criticism and parodies, especially those by Taibbi, and I get irritated with Friedman's glib catch phrases and simplistic bromides. Still, I find him indispensable, especially on the Mideast, upon which he writes with the deepest background of any American.
- JC, The Times Literary Supplement. The witty, old-fashioned British curmudgeon is a treat. He runs on the back cover, a sweet reward for having plowed through yet another issue.
- Patrick Cockburn, London Review of Books. The last of the Cockburns gives information about the Syrian civil war and other Mideast conflicts not found in American newspapers.
- Diary, London Review of Books. Various writers contribute to this weekly adventure.
- Commentary and freelance, Times Literary Supplement. See previous listing.
- Peggy Noonan, Wall Street Journal. Yes, she's nutty and outrageous, but I need my weekly Peggy fix.
- Joan Walsh, the Nation. A writer of grace and clarity. And, after seeing her on Chris Hayes and other MSNBC shows, do I have a crush on her.
- Maureen Dowd, New York Times. The Big Mo writes fewer and fewer columns these days, giving more attention to pieces for the Sunday New York Times magazine. She's the liberal mirror image of Noonan. Yes, she's excessive, whacky, out of control, but I love to read her. How sad the Sunday mornings after flipping through another dismal Review section to find the words, "Maureen Dowd is off today."
- Jack Shafer, Politico. I've followed Jack from job to job. He's a bit snarky, while maintaining a bit of old-school cool.
- Robert Mann, New Orleans Times-Picayune and Salon. This author and LSU professor writes from the progressive perspective about the dismal swamp of Louisiana politics. He helps fill the gap left by the death of the wonderful John Maginnis.
- James Wolcott, Vanity Fair. Wolcott set the standard at the dawn of the blogosphere, but now has all but abandoned his blog. I miss his bracing, snarky wit.
- Eric Alterman, the Nation. Another place I go to drink the progressive Kool-Aid. Alas, the entertainment and culture columns he used to do for the Nation have disappeared. Allegedly, the columns in which he reviews performances, records and books were supposed to have gone to the Huffington Post, but have yet to appear.
- New Yorker critics, particularly Anthony Lane on movies and Alex Ross on classical music.
- I end with a lament for the departed columnists of yesteryear: Jimmy Breslin, Mary McGrory, Russell Baker, William Safire, Dwight MacDonald, Red Smith, Dave Anderson, Hunter S. Thompson, Ralph Gleason and all of those wild voices from the old Village Voice.