Monday, September 24, 2007

Best Article Ever

This article, according to Thomas himself, is one of the best articles ever written about him. It's called Native Son: Why A Black Supreme Court Justice Has No Rights A White Man Need Respect, by Edith Efron. It appeared in Reason magazine in 1992.

Here's what Virginia Postrel says about the article:

After his speech at the American Enterprise Institute's banquet in February, I introduced myself to Clarence Thomas. His face lit up when he heard my affiliation with Reason, asking whether I was the woman who had written the article about him. No, I said, Edith Efron wrote it. I was the editor who published it (and, I didn't add, typed it). He then told me what he had told several mutual friends since 1992: that Edith had been the only person to understand what was going through his mind during the hearings that made him a household name.

Edith knew exactly what Thomas was thinking not because she was a well-sourced reporter—she had never met Thomas and didn't talk to any insiders about the hearings—but because she paid attention to history and to details. Everything she wrote had a Big Idea, an integrated concept that made sense of a welter of facts. Structure, she believed, was everything, and she wasn't happy until she had found the perfect synthesis. She was uncannily perceptive.

In this case, she knew that Thomas' favorite book was Richard Wright's Native Son, she reread the book for the first time in 50 years, and the rest followed. "One finds many things relevant to Thomas and to his roots and his lifelong concerns in this book," she wrote. "But in this particular context, one finds one crucial thing—his limits. The one thing Thomas would not, could not, permit, whatever else might be at stake, the one stereotype that it would be downright dangerous to paste on him, leaps out from those pages."

From that insight, she created a sympathetic and searing portrait that turned Thomas the symbol back into Thomas the man. Her article was so powerful that it overcame its political incorrectness to be named a finalist for a National Magazine Award, the magazine world's highest honor.

No comments:

hits counter