Most writers have a favorite stylistic vice, a practice that stubbornly violates the canons for reasons of emphasis, clarity, or just plain self-indulgence. Mine is the long and sometimes awkward clinching sentence that seals an argument with a strong and snarky punch. Having made it through college without once taking a composition or journalism course, I toss these off with the primitive innocence of the self-educated.I mention this to introduce an outstanding example of my favorite stylistic vice, penned by freelance writer Christopher Hayes, that appears in an unfriendly review of a right-wing book (Steven Malanga’s The New New Left) in The New Republic. After scathingly analyzing the author’s dismissal of latter-day organizers for the working poor as “special interests,” Hayes offers up this line, which is the verbal equivalent of a boxer delivering a long overhand hook for the knockout:
Malanga thinks that janitors who clean buildings for eight dollars an hour are a special interest, while I tend to think that middle-age white guys whose cushy sinecures at conservative think tanks nicely insulate them from the vicissitudes of the same free market they so fetishize are a special interest.
Elegant? No. Faithful to Strunk and White? Hell, no. Would the New York Times have published this sentence? Of course not. But I like its style.