I recall reading many of these essays when they were first published in The Guardian and the London Review of Books. They did add to my general understanding of the climate at the time, but not nearly to the degree that Raban’s more leisurely pieces have added to my knowledge of, say, maritime history. And while Raban has supplied serviceable reportage and analysis of our post-9-11 world, others have positively excelled. To toss off three: Paul Krugman on the economics, Frank Rich on the politics, and Garry Wills on the history.
And, frankly, Raban’s election-year essays Barack Obama are naïve and embarrassing. These days, nobody but Obama’s critics want to remember the schoolchild crush the intellectual left had for “The One,” and if there’s a lesson there, it’s that we should not turn to reserved British writers for our electoral advice.
But there’s so much to admire in this collection that Driving Home shouldn’t be judged on these few, final essays. Raban’s ruminative, singular prose is a real treat. I hope he’s out on some lake on a motorboat right now, puttering around with an antique fishing pole, one eye on a worn copy of Trollope, another glancing around for the next sunset to describe.
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