Jun 19, 2012

Why You Should Read Chris Hayes' Book

As regular readers are aware, I'm a huge fan of Chris Hayes. Accordingly, I went to his event at Politics and Prose last night (an hour early to get a good seat), and for the first time in I can't remember how long, bought a new, hardcover copy of a book I've already read for solidarity reasons.

I wasn't disappointed. Hayes, as you might expect from a TV man, is very good at talking, and gave a good talk. I've already written a lot about his book, so I won't rehash the content, but it was well done. Somewhat more surprisingly, he was also very good at working the microphone, even leaning into it and dropping his voice to make a punchline standup comedian-style. And he was very kind and gracious at the signing, remembering my review of his book and complimenting my writing, which caused my brain to seize up like a flash-frozen halibut.

Anyway, listening to one of the fans ahead of me in line last night I was reminded of the reason why I liked it so much. Not exactly because of Hayes' intellectual case for the decline of the meritocracy (which is very timely, cogent, and well worth discussing in itself, don't get me wrong), but because Hayes, more than anyone else I've ever read, really captured the feeling and nuance of what coming and age during a time of catastrophic elite failure is like. To make a bit of a hyperbolic comparison, it reminds me of the way people talk about how The Great Gatsby captured the essence of the Roaring Twenties.

This is a very nerve-wracking time to be alive. (As the curse goes, "may you live in interesting times.") Watching Europe implode, and the president assassinate American citizens, and the top level of our financial system evolve into an enormous tick buried in the neck of the country, can be terribly lonely and alienating. To read and listen to someone like Chris, who gets it, who isn't reciting bullshit mind-numbing platitudes on his show, who seems to be honestly grappling with the problems facing the world, is comforting on a deep, almost spiritual level in a way that is very difficult to describe.

Or, as Ze Frank puts it:

If you're youngish, like me, and/or you feel some existential stress about the state of the world, read the book. You won't regret it.

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