Some nice writing; that’s all I’m saying

I don’t know whether Joe Roman can write, but Katherine Mangu-Ward certainly can.

I generally like reading the book reviews in the WSJ (which run every day but Saturday on the paper’s THIRD opinion page), but Ms. Mangu-Ward’s review of Mr. Roman’s book Listed particularly grabbed me.

My favorite part was the first two sentences of her lede, which I highlight:

Wolves are notoriously slow to hire lobbyists. Lichen doubly so. It’s no surprise, then, that the Endangered Species Act is a law written by humans and used for human ends. Ever since the act’s 1973 debut, supporters and opponents have accused each other of playing politics with the fates of nearly extinct plants and animals. To be fair, both sides are usually right. In “Listed,” conservation biologist Joe Roman recounts the uses and abuses of a well-intentioned but all-too-human law.

The very next sentence was nice, too:

The difficulty of getting off the list of endangered species ranks right up there with unsubscribing from the Pottery Barn catalog.

I was also partial to this part:

Wolves are the exception: Yesterday, President Barack Obama swiftly and unceremoniously booted the wolves of the Northern Rockies and Great Lakes off the list. Humans have strong feelings about wolves—probably because, as predators, they have been one of our major rivals for ungulate calories over the millennia—and government officials are no exception.

I mean, apart from ending the first and last sentences with “exception,” which I just now noticed.

Yeah, I know — it’s very WSJ to run a piece casting doubt on the value of such gummint meddlin’ as the Endangered Species Act. But I’m just saying it was well-written. I always appreciate that, whatever the writer may be trying to say…

She mostly seemed to like the book except at the end, which causes her writing to take on a sharper edge:

But the book takes an abrupt turn in its final pages. Mr. Roman offers a plan “to make extinction as unacceptable as slavery and child labor” and lists nine steps—he says he drew them up with biologist Paul R. Ehrlich and others. Mr. Ehrlich is most famous for predicting, in “The Population Bomb” (1968), that overpopulation would cause mass starvation. It is his cold voice, not Mr. Roman’s friendly one, that leaps off the page: “Stabilizing the human population, even humanely reducing it, will improve the lives of people and wildlife.” How the world’s population will be “humanely” reduced isn’t explained.

Anyway, I probably won’t ever get around to the book, but I enjoyed the review. I don’t say nice things about what other people do enough, so I thought I’d say this.

3 thoughts on “Some nice writing; that’s all I’m saying

  1. Steven Davis

    The way you get off Pottery Barn’s catalog list is to just not order anything for 2-3 catalogs and they will automatically drop you.

  2. Burl Burlingame

    “as unacceptable as slavery and child labor”…? Have they ever met a South Carolina Republican?

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