Reviewing Chris Hedges and citing Cotton Mather

I picked up a copy of the National Post this past Saturday. I used to get it regularly a few years ago, but had stopped that regular subscription out of frustration with certain things, in particular the book review section. A friend encouraged me to pick it up again. I did so on Saturday and loved what I found. Among other things I read with interest were the insightful columns reflecting on the awarding of the Nobel Peace Prize to President Obama, Conrad Black's response to critics of his becoming a Roman Catholic (my friend John Clubine was mentioned by name and a particular book on Cromwell, dear to me, referred to), and a number of fascinating book reviews.

One of the latter that caught my attention was Jessica Warner's review of Chris Hedges' Empire of Illusion: The End of Literacy and Triumph of Spectacle (Knopf, 2009), of which I have read the first few chapters and skimmed other parts of it ["Rage against the obscene", National Post (Saturday, October 10, 2009), WP14]. She is critical of Hedges' style, namely, his jeremiad against popular American culture, and suggests that this is not "really the best way to pull us back from the brink." She then comments:

"Most people, I suspect, prefer their finger-wagging decently cloaked in wit and irony. There is a reason Voltaire and Swift continue to be read--and why Cotton Mather is not."

Poor Cotton Mather! But another reason could be that Mather's jeremiad prose is laced with theological perspectives at odds with many today, whereas Voltaire definitely and to some degree Swift would be very much at home in certain aspects of this post-Enlightenment world that is grounded in the modernity project.

A good review, though, of Hedges' book.