This article at bookforum.com came out last year, but I only read it today. I have to say, it's one of the best pieces I've read for a while.
It's about the public intellectual - or rather, the decline of the public intellectual.
This in itself is a pretty interesting idea if you ask me. An age where think tanks are growing faster than lesions on a leper. Yet, by its own definition - disinterested public intellectual are about as common as a jackalope, and no less ersatz.
I like this piece because - beyond being well written - the author of both the article, and the original book, talk about something that rarely crops up in discussions of writing and writers: the day-to-day existence of being one, which is typically not a particularly pleasant existence especially compared to the well-compensated benefits of tenure or the comforts of a well-paid think tank gig.
There was one quote, however, which really got my attention, situated as I am (or briefly was) between these two definitions.
...publicist. It had once referred to an informed and authoritative writer on public affairs—something like wonk but with more honorable overtones. “‘Publicist,’” wrote Jacoby, “if it once connotated an engagement with the state and law, is almost obsolete, victimized by Hollywood and ‘public relations’: it now signifies someone who handles and manipulates the media, an advance or front man (or woman). A public intellectual or old-style publicist is something else, perhaps the opposite, an incorrigibly independent soul answering to no one.”More...