In the culture wars, Robert Hughes, the formidable art critic for Time magazine, has taken upon himself the role of culture warlord: an independent force whose power grows as the principal combatants exhaust themselves fighting each other. He harries the flanks of Left and Right as they discharge their heavy ordnance at one another—and sometimes he creeps onto the battlefield after nightfall to cut the throats of the wounded. It is a rhetorically liberating position to be able to cry a plague o’ both your houses, as Hughes does in his new book, Culture of Complaint: The Fraying of America,1 and he is occasionally in fine form doing it. His bark is worse than his bite, but he is one of those people whose bark is their bite, as Randall Jarrell once wrote: and many a bite has lain awake nights wishing he were half as fearsome as his bark.

Popular Right Now