Sheed on "the muggeridge"

Some dotCommonweal readers may remember the British journalist Malcolm Muggeridge, who late in life entered the Catholic Church and is perhaps best known in America for his book about Mother Teresa, Something Beautiful for God. In the 60s Muggeridge wrote book and film reviews for several American magazines, including Esquire. In what was supposed to be a review of a play about Sherlock Holmes, the late Wilfrid Sheed made light fun of the sudden ubiquity of "the muggeridge." This is Sheed at his cattiest and most playful. Not a proper review but a brilliant piece of writing.

Perhaps the outstanding feature of the new muggeridge is its formidable second-strike capacity. Woe to anyone who controverts itthe muggeridge strikes back with the speed of a cobra, with a suave giggle and lick of the forked tongue. The macdonald* was good in this respect, but hopelessly wasteful: it used to try to answer its enemies point by point. The muggeridge simply giggles and licks, and its enemies become instantly paralyzed.The muggeridges extraordinary output also enables it to review the same book in several places at once, which clears up a lot of silly confusion. The old machines used to disagree sometimes and then they fought like old tin battleships, circling slowly and pelting the landscape with shot. It was a mess. One hardly knew what to think.Nowadays, none of this is necessary. Simply install a muggeridge in your office (the only thing a muggeridge will not fight with is another muggeridge). Several magazines have already purchased oneand these magazines among our best. An imported criticism machine adds a cachet that anyone can feel proud of.

*Dwight MacDonald

Matthew Boudway is senior editor of Commonweal.

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