George Will is an under-appreciated columnist, I think--he's not an attack dog or a dazzling stylist, so he doesn't have a passionate following, and he's been so good for so long that it's easy to forget how effectively he practices the art.
Others will have to weigh in on this, but I've always believed--and thought that others believed--that Will is one of America's best writers and thinkers and THE great columnist of his generation. No one else even comes close. In fact, you might argue that Will is the last of the dinosaurs: I'm not certain that any newspaper columnist will ever again attain the level of influence and achievement which Will has.
In addition, I would guess that some very large percentage of political writers between the ages of 25 and 45 chose their profession at least in part because of Will. (This goes double for pretentious jerks who insist on using a middle initial in their byline.)
As to the matter of Will's skill as a stylist, I'd argue that Will isn't just a great and smart political writer. In truth, he can do just about anything. From the astonishingly light touch he uses on pieces about his son to the iron grip of heroic certainty he brings to his baseball writings, Will could have become famous as just about any kind of writer--sports, features, essays, non-fiction books. He hits to all fields with power.
You are so correct on all counts. Plus, to quote Kramer, "He has great hair."
I like Ross Douthat, I really do, but George Will is the columnist of record. I own books of his columns that were published around the time I was born. And amazingly, no matter how much things change, no matter what has occurred, his writings on damn near every subject hold not just the ring of deep truth, but the actual kernel itself. He inspired the great thinker and writer Thomos Sowell to pen columns, because he wrote brilliantly in the short form of columns.
Face it, all of us who own or have owned a blog, want so very much to have one George Will piece, where our understanding of the subject matter is so good and our writing so effortless that we know we nailed it. It must be the same feeling Big Papi has when he's the winning connects on a meatball in the ninth inning for a walkoff job. Would you like to try my new recipe for Mango salsa? WHEWWWW! Note only comcast customers in New England truly appreciate that joke.
George Will's son went to my HS in Bethesda, MD. It is well known that Will's son has Down Syndrome and my HS has about the best public special education program in the nation. Jon Will introduced his father at his graduation as the commencement speaker. It was easily one of the most courageous things I've ever witnessed to see Jon give that speech and it brought tears to everyone's eyes. George Will's commencement address was incredible. Touching, motivational, and hilarious at the same time. As a member of the choir I got to attend 4 years of graduation ceremonies for my HS, and Will's speech was by far the best, and probably one of the best speeches I'll ever hear. The man is a national treasure.
I agree with the above. When I was a college student in oh-so-liberal Eugene, Oregon, Will's column collections kept me on the straight and narrow.
I admire his intellect, his writing style and his ability to stay a bit aloof. While the op-ed page these days has gotten more and more heated, he's stayed cool as the other side of the pillow.
I used to admire Will a lot, when I agreed with him more, and I still respect him.
I think Fareed Zakaria is proving to be in Will's league.
Well, as an actual working columnist, and at 47 being positioned perfectly between the Joe Alsop generation and the Ann Coulter generation, let me say that there are many more good columnists today than there were in the 1970s and 1980s. But fewer great ones.
This is a pattern that appears in many disciplines. When the quantity of "good" grows, the pursuit itself gets a less rarefied feel, and individuality is attenuated. And as individuality goes, so goes greatness.
What I'm saying in a roundabout way is that I'm with Jonathan. Will is a great one who has inspired most of the good ones.
Another big Will fan here. He inspired me to write. I own or have read most of his books. I have his first collection of essays from the 1970s when he was only in his 30s, and his style, wit and command of literature and language were the same then. What an amazing set of gifts he has.
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