The Times Literary Supplement is one, perhaps the chief tendril by which I keep in touch with the wider world. No publication is perfect, but the TLS is more than close enough for my taste and aptitude.
I particularly love reading reviews of material just at the frontier my grasp. This helps we expand my understanding by forcing me to attempt comprehension first by intuition, then by familiarization. This has always been a trait of mine. I remember my parents reaction to my fascination with Shakespeare films on the TV. My father difficulty with the language and was puzzled that I still wanted to watch things like Laurence Olivier's Hamlet of 1948. I couldn't grasp every word either, but was drawn in by the charm of puzzling out via context and the bits of vocabulary I already possessed, the import of what I saw. With each viewing, my vocabulary grew and the play revealed more and more.
All that to one side, it seems to me that the TLS's presentation of both American fiction and non-fiction suffers from an over reliance on the scribblings of trendy American academics.
The latest edition features Elaine Showalter's review of Hilary Clinton's book, "Hard Choices." It begins with a knowing and engaging dissection of the ex-Secretary of State memories genre. I never expected much from them, so, never bothering to read them, I am indebted to Professor Showalter for confirming my guess.
I have no idea what TLS uses as a guide to pick reviewers. I suspect that they are open to having a robust badinage in the comments section by allowing partisans to savage opponent's books. That is not the case here.
Showalter is one of the grand dames of Feminism. She is an unlikely to take the scalpel to Clinton's book as I am to do the same to my own leg. She lists Hilary Clinton's anodyne pronouncements with the sort of approval that might follow something unexpected and ground breaking. Feminist politicians of good opinion rarely make such pronouncements anymore then Showalter, so this is a review in the fawning spirit of sisterly solidarity. Showalter thinks that Clinton is showing us political mastery when in fact she shows that Hilary is prepared to be as morally flexible as any other politician in the service of her career.
Showalter gushes, "Clinton comes across as a careful decision maker, but also a gutsy partner willing to take risks in the interests of an important goal." This is a description of Hilary's pressing for the go ahead on killing Bin Laddin. Of course we have only her word on this. The Feminist triumphalism come through clearly however. Girls can be as tough or tougher than boys.
Showalter's review is eerily devoid of cause and effect. Hilary gets good marks for turning on Hosni Mubarak. No mention is made about the collapse of her pro-Arab spring policy in Egypt that fell hard on her decision "To unfriend" Mubarak. In this manner one feminist lauds another for having the temerity to make "tough" decisions. I suppose it would be sexist to expect these to be wise of prudent ones. It is enough that Hilary makes big decisions!
This is, in a way, not Showalter's fault. She made a career of working within the mini- universe of academic Feminism. To expect her to write critically of Hilary Clinton now, on the verge of a possible Hilary Presidency, would be to expect suicidal bravery.
TLS should get better advice on American reviewers.