Lehrer … isn’t an artist or scientist, but a skillful journalist, and while he’s never pretended otherwise, there’s often a secondhand feel to much of his work. Lehrer has always had trouble discussing the process behind specific acts of creativity—as in his rather confused discussion of Bob Dylan in Imagine, which Isaac Chotiner of The New Republic has ruthlessly picked apart—and the fact that he returns so often to the same examples reflects the fact that he doesn’t yet have the deep well of insight that comes only after years of creative endeavor.
The real irony is that the sort of career that Lehrer is building for himself makes it especially hard to achieve this kind of knowledge. Creative work tends to be solitary, pursued without an audience or any clear reward, and rarely happens on schedule. It has little to do, in short, with the life of a pundit, blogger, and public intellectual. Lehrer may well be capable of original creative accomplishment, but his rapid rise to prominence has made this way of life increasingly difficult. In order to produce content on a fixed schedule, he’s been obliged to repeat the same handful of words and ideas, which can only estrange a writer from the process of creativity itself.
The Lehrer Affair. This account is useful in some ways and deeply inadequate in others — I hope to revisit this issue.