But beyond the pleasure of Dreyer’s prose and authorial tone, I think there is something else at play with the popularity of his book. To put it as simply as possible, the man cares, and we need people who care right now.
Oh, no. Surely not. No, please don’t…!
Our current era is marked by cynicism and nihilism—it goes without saying, but I’ll say it anyway, that we managed to elect the worst person in the world as president, a con artist and pathological liar who will say anything to stay in the public consciousness and keep the inverted pyramid of his shabby criminal empire from toppling down onto his empty head. Trump is an avatar of everything impermanent, incompetent, and insincere about this era, and I believe there’s a great inchoate hunger for the opposite, for someone who thinks that words and ideas matter.
Sigh. He did it. Yes, of course, if a literary style guide becomes a surprise bestseller, it must have something to do with Donald Trump, the star at the center of the bien-pensant solar system. A moment’s reflection would remind us that Steven Pinker, to name one example, also wrote a bestselling style guide in 2014, suggesting that there may just be a sizable audience with a perennial interest in the craft of writing regardless of political trends, an audience that, shockingly, might not spend every conscious moment obsessing over Donald Trump. Frankly, this kind of “praise” is a philistine insult. It reduces a thoughtful consideration of language and writing to just another emoticon in the frivolous chatter of the news cycle. A book on stylish writing, grown women wearing ridiculous pussy hats — they’re just interchangeable symbols of self-indulgent #resistance. I’m afraid the barbarians are already inside the gates of the literary imagination.