Often, people are surprised to learn that I much prefer reading fiction to non-fiction. The main reason is that those who write fiction tend to be people who write for a living, whereas the folks who crank out history books and biographies are very often those whose first love is research.
The other reason is that in a novel, the author is free to divulge everything the characters know, think, feel and do. When it comes to non-fiction, we are often dealing with what the writer imagines took place, and we may not be aware of his bias. There is a reason, after all, why there are so many different accounts of different historical events.
A German historian is probably going to have a different take on the Third Reich than an Englishman will. A devout Christian will not write the same book about Jesus that an atheist will. Someone once observed that history is written by those who win the wars. That’s not entirely true. But those on the winning side certainly write from a very different perspective from those whose countries were vanquished.
I just finished reading Jeffrey Toobin’s “The Nine,” a book sub-titled “Inside the Secret World of the Supreme Court.” I have no way of knowing if what he wrote about the various justices is true. A lot of it sounds like gossip, which I don’t mind. After all, I didn’t read it because I’m prepping to argue a case before the Court, but because I was curious to know more about these people who, in many ways, have a greater influence on our lives than the president or the hundred members of the Senate.
The problem, I found, is that Mr. Toobin, who writes for the New Yorker, couldn’t keep his liberal bias under wraps for more than a couple of pages at a time. But, that’s the way it is with the New Yorker. In case you stopped reading the magazine in the days when it was best known for fiction by James Thurber and J.D. Salinger and cartoons by Peter Arno and Charles Addams, those days are long past. For the past several years, it has proudly carried the water for the far left. Things reached a point where you couldn’t get through reviews of books and movies that had nothing to do with politics without coming across a paragraph bashing Bush and the Republicans. The first few times, I thought there had been a mix-up at the printer, and that these attacks were supposed to appear elsewhere in the magazine.
Toobin wears his partisanship so blatantly that whereas justices Scalia and Thomas are constantly being identified as conservatives, Souter, Kennedy, O’Connor, Stevens and Ginsburg, are praised for being moderates and middle of the road.