Geordie Williamson Takes Out Pascall Prize for Criticism
“[I]n the early years of the 21st century, liberal America got its news from a satirical television program and its moral compass from a fortnightly journal of book reviews.” So writes Geordie Williamson in an essay this week in The Australian, asking why it is that after 9/11 the Daily Show and the New York Review of Books became such authoritative source of news and opinion for cosmopolitan progressives often described in the US - often derogatively - as ‘liberal’.
Williamson, the newspaper’s chief literary critic who this week accepted this year’s $15,000 Pascall Prize for criticism, suggests the unexpected rise of a book review magazine occurred during a period when other media outlets abdicated their journalistic responsibilities. “It is possible to disagree with the positions held by [Mark] Danner on torture [in a 2004 essay, ‘The Logic of Terror’], or by Jonathan Raban on the surveillance society, or by Joan Didion on domestic politics in the US. But what is undeniable is that the pages of The New York Review of Books (and indeed the books pages of newspapers and magazines across the world) have become, during the past 10 years, a powerfully effective means of interrogating the larger political claims of the day.”