Humorist/curmudgeon Joe Queenan is, to me, a polar figure: with any given piece, he makes me either pitch over in one-liner-induced hysterics or cringe at threadbare premises stretched too far. (Sometimes his curmudgeonry feels forced, but, at 57, he's still a tad young for that routine.) While I took A.J. Jacobs' side, just barely, in the Know-it-All feud (1, 2), I keep returning to check out what Queenan's been up to.
Most recently, he wrote up John Perkins' The Secret History of the American Empire in the New York Times Book Review. Perkins, to jog your memory, was the guy who wrote the paranoid bestseller Confessions of an Economic Hitman, to quote Jay Sherman, a mixture of fantasy and crap. ("I call it fantacrap!") Sarcasm at full tilt, Queenan's review of Perkins' new diatribe provides the funniest sentence I've read in at least the past six months:
Because so many of the anecdotes and even the general outline of Perkins’s conspiracy theories date from the ’60s, a better title might have been “Rip Van Winkle Versus the Trilateral Commission.”
Read the whole thing, but here's one more excerpt to whet the appetite:
The author also has a tendency to play fast and loose with the facts, skating over Castro’s myriad crimes in Cuba and Mao’s festive homicide in China. He is weak on American history, somehow confusing the monstrously inhospitable Iroquois tribes with the Little Sisters of the Poor. He describes Che Guevara’s death in ludicrously dramatic terms, when in fact this trendsetter, fashion plate and full-service psychopath came to a clownish end. He seems to believe that the C.I.A., having murdered the democratically elected presidents of Chile and Ecuador, then put Linda Tripp on the payroll in a plot to destroy Bill Clinton — and frankly, this sounds a bit far-fetched. He suggests that the first President Bush invaded Panama because Manuel Noriega had incriminating photos of George W. Bush snorting cocaine and engaging in kinky sex. If only history were this much fun!