Jonathan Yardley has a superfine nose for hypocrisy, absurdity, self-delusion, and self-indulgence. That he takes delight in exposing these vices, especially when secreted away in artifacts of our so-called literary culture, is well known to followers of his work as a book critic and, since 1981, as a Monday-morning columnist for The Washington Post. Out of Step is Yardley’s choice of the best of his column, a thousand-word feature that, by his own account, has “evolved into a place for commentary on issues not often addressed in newspaper opinion sections,” including “education both higher and lower, the press and the media, [and] the ebb and flow of American social life.” The column’s primary focus, however, has been on those “literary and book-industry matters that transcend a book reviewer’s business,” especially fakes and faddists and over-sized egos—i.e,...


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