I posted Gary Sernovitz’s assessment of Dale Peck a couple of weeks ago.
For the magazine’s [The New Republic] regular readers, a kind of repetitive stress injury set in. Some of the best critics were sent to do dirty work on minor figures. Lee Siegel, who commenced with deserving targets, was in a few years’ time trolling the publishers’ mid-lists in search of small fry. (He is now the magazine’s TV critic.) Somehow TNR got the best people and encouraged their worst instincts. Academic experts in their own field were invited in to garrote colleagues they didn’t understand. It was called being a “public intellectual. ” So our heroes embarrassed themselves. . . .
It didn’t have to be this way: if only they had allowed more positive individuality, cultivated something new, and still kept an old dignified adherence to the Great Tradition, running continuously to them (as they hoped) from the New York Intellectuals, whose ashes were in urns in the TNR vaults if they were anywhere. This was a magazine that began with Edmund Wilson! They went too far, and they flipped. Even they must be tired of themselves. If you pinned a work of art to their nose in their sleep, they would bat it away with the same gesture. The defense of standards became a new vulgarity. And what can we do? We still have thirty-six weeks on our discount subscription! Forget about it. — We’re young yet: so we’ll go and be among the young.