About Me

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Australian philosopher, literary critic, legal scholar, and professional writer. Based in Newcastle, NSW. My latest books are THE TYRANNY OF OPINION: CONFORMITY AND THE FUTURE OF LIBERALISM (2019); AT THE DAWN OF A GREAT TRANSITION: THE QUESTION OF RADICAL ENHANCEMENT (2021); and HOW WE BECAME POST-LIBERAL: THE RISE AND FALL OF TOLERATION (2024).

Monday, December 05, 2011

Currently reading - The Better Angels of Our Nature by Steven Pinker

I won't be discussing this book, The Better Angels of Our Nature: The Decline of Violence in History and its Causes, in any detail ... at least not today! That's mainly because I have so far to go before I finish. It's a huge book (800 large-format pages, counting notes, bibliography, and everything else), and I will need a week to read it.

What I can say, though, is that it confirms something I already knew: Pinker is an excellent stylist. He provides a splendid model for anyone who writes non-fiction books. The Better Angels of Our Nature is written in clear, finely polished prose that makes you want to keep reading, reading, and turning the pages. It's not dumbed down or patronising to the reader, yet the facts and thoughts are presented as simply as their inherent complexity and difficulty permit. The sentences are well-structured, with a sense of rhythm and voice. On a larger scale, the stucture of the book creates a desire to find out more and more about the overall thesis - how is it all going to fit together?

I pay Steven Pinker the best compliment that I've ever received, myself, from a fellow professional author: This fucker knows how to write!


Jean Kazez said...

Pinker's sentences really are fantastic. They are perfectly structured and economical, yet have little twists an turns that make them amusing. As I read, I keep thinking I should copy down sentences and create "The Quotable Pinker" (somewhere or other).

On the other hand: It's going to take you a whole week.... Are you kidding? I'm on page 500 and it's been ___ weeks. I'm not tellin' what goes in the blank.

Russell Blackford said...

You've been doing lots of other things during that time, like going to rock concerts with your kids. We all know, if we read your blog.

(Not that I'm doing absolutely nothing else with my time.)

ivo said...

Also, Pinker speaks just as elegantly as he writes: in perfect, fully formed paragraphs, as somebody said.

Jean Kazez said...

Right--but still. One week is unforgivable. Now I'm going to have to look up "the Flynn effect" to see what page you're on.

[Just looked it up. GOOD GOD!]