September 9, 2014

Leon Wieseltier, Washington National


Leon Wieseltier (via YouTube)

Leon Wieseltier (via YouTube)

Leon Wieseltier, the literary editor of The New Republic, once wrote that “the most disturbing quality about [Bill] Clinton” was “his indifference to contradiction.” In the same essay, Wieseltier called Maya Angelou, who read at Clinton’s inauguration, “a cross between Rod McKuen and Maxine Waters,” and cited, as evidence for his distaste, not Angelou’s poetry, but a blurb she had written for a collection called Falling from Heaven: Holocaust Poems of a Jew and a Gentile. This was an approach to literary criticism that was rich with contradiction. 21 years later, Wieseltier’s colleagues at the New Republic’s web team showed themselves equally capable of contradiction, when they reposted his essay on the day Angelou died. Timely!

Is the appearance of a literary editor at a baseball game yet another kind of contradiction? Last Sunday, Wieseltier celebrated the 100th anniversary of the New Republic at Washington, DC’s Nationals Park. I don’t mean that he and publisher Chris Hughes commemorated the publication’s long century with beer, hot dogs, and a 3–2 win. (They might have. But they probably didn’t.) I mean that, because Washington, DC is Washington, DC, Wieseltier threw out the game’s first pitch. There is video evidence of this event:

And Twitter evidence of mockery of this event:



As you watch Wieseltier pose for a photo with outfielder Michael Taylor, you might be asking yourself: what is the MobyLives stance on literary editors throwing out first pitches at baseball games? Our position is a simple one: anything that encourages the broader visibility of literature (no matter how turgid), literary criticism (no matter how pedantic), and political analysis (no matter how consistently wrong) is for the good.

Thus, we can only hope that Wieseltier’s appearance at Nationals Park marks the beginning of a new convergence between sports, politics, and literature. Perhaps it’s only a matter of time before the Barclays Center is renamed n+1 Arena, and the Los Angeles Clippers change their name to the Los Angeles Reviews of Books. Nothing contradictory about that.


Mark Krotov is senior editor at Melville House.