Posted by: ritagone | December 2, 2015

I Wish I’d Said That!



I want to be Peggy Noonan when I grow up:

She writes (and obviously therefore thinks) with such clarity about so many important topics, that reading her newest book “The Time of Our Lives,” which is a collection of her editorials and essays over the last quarter of a century, is to gain more clear-headedness of my own.

Several years ago I was reading another Noonan book and enjoying it immensely, when an acquaintance to whom I mentioned the author commented: “You know, she’s drinking again!” I was at first stunned and then silently laughed. Did he really have the inside scoop on Peggy Noonan? And wasn’t this a kind of “When did you stop beating your wife?” comment, implying that she used to drink quite a bit, then stopped, and now has started up again? Michael and I still laugh about that comment and all that it implies of inside information and a blatant self-righteous nastiness. It’s the way the Pharisees probably gloated over someone else’s sin, real or imagined.

And if drinking causes you to write like Peggy Noonan, take me to the local bar and order me a margarita or two!!

Anyone who can write with precision about, of all things, (and one of her many subjects), the American political scene, is a hero (or heroine), in my book. And in her book, she writes brilliantly and sharply about people, not cutting corners, not counting the cost but speaking what she sees as the truth. For example, she’s not nor has she ever been a big fan of Hillary Clinton’s, for sure, and by the time you’ve read why, you tend to agree: “What do I think is the biggest reason Mrs. Clinton came back? (in a campaign for President, 2008) She kept her own spirits up to the point of denial and worked it, hard, every day. She is hardy, resilient, tough. She is a train on a track, an Iron Horse. But we must not become carried away with generosity. The very qualities that impress us are the qualities that will make her a painful president. She does not care what you think, she will have what she wants, she will not do the feints, pivots and backoffs that presidents must. She is neither nimble nor agile, and she knows best. She will wear a great nation down.”

It remains to be seen how spot on Ms. Noonan is about this assessment of Hillary Clinton, and given the increasing chance that Hillary will be the next president of the United States, we may find out sooner than we wished about Noonan’s accuracy.

But she is also capable of capturing the bigger picture: how a culture – especially ours here in the U.S. – can shift into something that is not as glorious as it once was. She writes: “I think we have lost the old knowledge that happiness is overrated – that, in a way, life is overrated. We have lost, somehow, a sense of mystery – about us, our purpose, our meaning, our role. Our ancestors believed in two worlds, and understood this to be the solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short one. We are the first generations of man that actually expected to find happiness here on earth, and our search for it has caused such unhappiness. The reason: If you do not believe in another, higher world, if you believe only in the flat material world around you, if you believe that this is your only chance at happiness – if that is what you believe, then you are not disappointed when the world does not give you a good measure of its riches, you are despairing.”

I couldn’t have said it better myself, Peggy Noonan, and indeed, I wish I had said it. And that’s one of the things that makes great writing: when you’re reading someone who knows how to articulate causes and issues and sentiments and you find yourself nodding your head in agreement, that’s when you want to read everything that person has written. Because it’s never a waste of time.

So do yourself a favor: read a Peggy Noonan book. Then let me know how she strikes you as a writer, philosopher, and truth-teller.


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