Thursday, February 15, 2007

Writer appreciation day: John Derbyshire

This past December I was giving a talk at Princeton and was pleasantly surprised to find John Derbyshire's book lying on a coffee table in the math lounge in Fine Hall. I was even more pleased to see that this work had won the Euler Book Prize.

I am a big fan of Derbyshire, and encourage everyone to read his columns every now and again. If you've never heard of him, this interview will serve as a decent crash-course intro. Derbyshire is a writer of a rare breed, possessing all the erudition of a crusty academic and all the reckless, unapologetic calling-them-as-he-sees-them brutally refreshing honesty of a man who has nothing to fear from the PC commissars. He is eminently quotable; here are my personal favorites:

  • Let's face it, in the great 20th-century struggle between the state and the individual, the state has won, game, set, and match.
  • The fact is that political stupidity is a special kind of stupidity, not well correlated with intelligence, or with other varieties of stupidity.
  • Wherever there is a jackboot stomping on a human face there will be a well-heeled Western liberal to explain that the face does, after all, enjoy free health care and 100 percent literacy.
(since these came from comments on a thread, I'm going to ask Mr. Derbyshire to authenticate them).

Sure enough, he has his share of detractors -- what hard-hitting pundit does not? They roll out the usual accusations: racist, sexist, bigot, hater. To all the people losing sleep over John Derbyshire's alleged hatred: relax, he doesn't hate you. Knowing him, he probably doesn't give a damn about you.

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