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What Not To Read: Of Thee I Zing

During my wife’s recent surgical recovery, a number of people gave her books. My sister-in-law arrived at the house with Laura Ingraham’s newest offering,
Of Thee I Zing.
Typically, the book-length musings of talk radio hosts do not warrant coverage here, but this book, by a person with whom I often agree, is so mind-bogglingly poor, that I couldn’t pass it up.

Essentially, Ingraham spends the book’s 320 pages grousing about everything in our current society that bothers her. Imagine if you will that you’ve been stuck in a window seat for a transatlantic flight with a person who monologues endlessly with “And you know what else bugs me?” bits of wisdom. That’s what you’ll get if you subject yourself to this book.

Ingraham takes exception to–well, just about everything, but one thing that stands out is her criticism of contemporary students. Yes, as a college educator, I can attest that there are plenty of dimwits and dullards roaming the academic halls these days, but one of her principal markers for the downturn of Western culture is in the poor usage skills of students. They–imagine the nerve–went through seventeen years of education without learning the difference between “there” and “their,” which she proceeds to explain, culminating a paragraph with “don’t even get me started on ‘its’ and ‘it’s.'”

Really? Are those the biggest faults you can see in the writing of recent graduates? Maybe they fail on some really important skill like the development of an idea. But that’s where Ingraham fails. Time after time, she points out some scandalous affront to decency only to dance away from it in a couple of hundred words. At one point, she begins a chapter with “There are so many problems with our popular culture, I could have devoted the entire book to the topic.” Why didn’t you? Anyone can cherry-pick a few examples of awful things and then move on quickly, as if there are no questions that might follow in their wake.

For example, Ingraham has no use for tattoos. Neither do I, but that’s not the point. You cannot simply declare tattoos as awful without providing any real argument or evidence, aside from the idea that the cool tattoo of today will look crummy and used up in 30 years.

I singled out Ingraham’s abuse of recent college graduates because her own writing, published and commanding a healthy price, would fail my Composition I course. I’d find myself saying something like this: “This is intriguing, but you move on to another topic just when things start to get interesting.”

This sort of stuff can fly on a radio show, but it’s hardly worth the pages dedicated to it.

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