cover image The Snarling Citizen: Essays

The Snarling Citizen: Essays

Barbara Ehrenreich. Farrar Straus Giroux, $20 (0pp) ISBN 978-0-374-26648-6

The only reason to collect columns and call them essays is to display the work of a superlative writer. Ehrenreich is one such. This collection contains pieces from the Nation, the Guardian, Time and other publications, each one short and slamming head on into political correctness and sloppy thinking. Organized religion? Ehrenreich explains the difference between a cult and a religion: ``Forty-eight people donning plastic and shooting themselves in the head is a `cult,' while a hundred million people bowing before a flesh-hating elderly celibate is obviously a world-class religion.'' Before you can draw breath, she polishes off a few more sacred cows: ``[A] half dozen Trotskyists meeting over coffee is a `sect,' while a few million gun-toting, Armageddon-ready Baptists are referred to as the Republican Party.'' She also turns her razor-sharp verbal arrows on health food faddists who attack everything appetizing and even on the holy of holies: ``We are all, it is often said, `in recovery.' And from what? Our families, in most cases.'' Ehrenreich is irresistibly quotable as she lashes out at welfare, Haiti, O.J., Bobbitry and housework. A reader who wants to be entertained or infuriated, or simply to identify will have a roller coaster ride with these bracing doses of verbal purgative. (Apr.)