Published in The Tyee on January 5, 2012: Peter C. Newman's Politics as Soap Opera. Excerpt, and then Newman's response:
Something is wrong with a country's political discourse when that discourse is dominated by a man who can't write.
That man, of course, is Peter C. Newman, who has been bloviating about Canadian business and politics for over half a century. I recall Renegade in Power, published in 1963, as an entertaining takedown of John Diefenbaker. But I was young and impressionable then.
That was not long after Theodore White published The Making of the President 1960, which created a new genre of political coverage. It would soon be followed by Joe McGinniss's The Selling of the President and the New Journalism of Tom Wolfe and Norman Mailer. All featured authorial ego and self-consciously clever writing.
The rest of us have moved on from New Journalism, probably because the only ones good at it were Wolfe and Mailer. But Newman has stuck to it, and prospered mightily. He has, after all published a string of books since 1959. They have done very well. He also edited Maclean's from 1971 to 1982, imposing his own metaphor-rich style on it.
For years I have avoided Newman's books on style grounds alone, though the reviews and interviews were harder to ignore. With his latest book, the media buzz was intense: Newman was proclaiming the death of the Liberal Party, so it must be true.
Like the reports of Mark Twain's death, this obituary too is exaggerated. But exaggeration -- hyperbolic over-exaggeration, generously garnished with clichés -- is at the core of Newman's style.
And here is Newman's response, pulished in The Tyee today.