Tom Junod's new profile of Roger Ailes is utterly facile and embarrassing; by Junod's own admission it really does come down to 'He's a hemophiliac and That Why He Is The Way He Is.' I'm reminded of David Foster Wallace's astonishing Harper's article, 'Host,' about a right-wing radio host - and the comparison is hugely unflattering to Junod. Wallace didn't simplify or dumb-down any of the material in that piece, which remains a definitive article-length treatment of talk radio. Junod goes for his usual bag of tricks (overblown stylistic flourishes, faux naivete, almost jokey framing language, endless repetition of less-than-interesting phrases, etc.) and comes up short; I'm reminded too that (like, say, American Beauty) his much better Mr Rogers profile rereads poorly despite destroying me the first time around. The flashy opening and provocative title promise at least some basic political discussion, but the article contains absolutely none at all; our ostensible compensation for that failing, Junod's 'psychology,' is Lost-level trauma-as-destiny bullshit. What a disappointment.
[Second thought: Tom Junod is the kind of man who does not use contractions. He does not do so because to do so would rob him of his authoritative seriousness. Tom Junod is fond of his authoritative seriousness. That his contractionless sentences contain little of meaning or substance is not relevant, because Tom Junod is not fond of meaning or substance. Y'know what I'm fucking talking about? That kind of stuff fills his articles. The weirdly stilted cadences of Serious Magazine Writers from Serious Magazines who, before they can just get on with telling the story, must first project Serious Magazine-ness. Compare to, say, Marc Singer over at the New Yorker, whose Ricky Jay and David Milch pieces show equal attention to voice/formal matters, but which are dense with implication, connection, context. Junod's Ailes piece contains absolutely no context. The DFW piece, 'Host,' is encyclopedic by comparison, despite moving (by comparison) like a rocketship.]