Anti-Americanism is an emotion masquerading as an analysis, a morality, an ideal, even an idea about what to do. When hatred of foreign policies ignites into hatred of an entire people and their civilization, then thinking is dead and demonology lives. When complexity of thought devolves into caricature, intellect is close to reconciling itself to mass murder.

One might have thought all this obvious. On the evidence of two of the works under review, it is not. Consider the sad case of Gore Vidal, once “a great wit” (in the words of Norman Mailer, who proceeded to skewer him), now a witless crank. Reposing in Ravello, Italy, Vidal maunders from snippet to snippet. His latest volume of musings manages to be skimpy and redundant at once. Collecting one’s Vanity Fair pieces as if they would stand up in book covers is an act of, well, vanity. That such an exercise should be escorted into the world by the Nation’s book publishing arm speaks unflatteringly about publishing standards on the left.

There’s much, much more.