NYT Book Critic: Michael Moore Belongs on Same Shelf With Thomas Paine

The front of Wednesday’s New York Times Arts section featured Dwight Garner’s review of the new book by left-wing documentary film-maker Michael Moore, “Here Comes Trouble -- Stories From My Life.”

Garner, a fan, called Moore (infamous for his anti-conservative conspiracy theories and vicious, purposely misleading mockery of Republicans) a “necessary irritant,” and in one nauseating paragraph suggested Moore’s book belonged alongside works by the revolutionary founding activist Thomas Paine.

In 2001 Christopher Hitchens published a slim, engaging how-to book titled “Letters to a Young Contrarian.” Among its most consequential advice was this: “The noble title of ‘dissident’ must be earned rather than claimed; it connotes sacrifice and risk rather than mere disagreement.”

Comes now Michael Moore -- the Oscar-winning documentary filmmaker, best-selling writer, right-wing bogeyman, blue-collar provocateur, wearer of baseball caps, necessary irritant -- with a plump, slatternly book that could probably appear under that same title. A better title for Mr. Moore’s new volume, “Here Comes Trouble,” however, might be: The Education of an American Misfit.


Mr. Moore’s coming of age as a working-class malcontent is, however, something to behold. It’s the story of a big lunk who learns to yoke his big mouth to a sense of purpose. It persuades you to take Mr. Moore seriously, and it belongs on a shelf with memoirs by, and books about, nonconformists like Mother Jones, Abbie Hoffman, Phil Ochs, Rachel Carson, Harvey Pekar and even Thomas Paine. Mr. Moore -- disheveled, cranky, attention seeking, too eager to pick a fight -- is easy to satirize. But he could nearly get away with branding his camera with the words oncescrawled on Woody Guthrie’s guitar: This machine kills fascists.

In August 2009 Garner enthused about a new biography of founding Communist Friedrich Engels: “Thanks to globalism's discontents and the financial crisis that has spread across the planet, Karl Marx and his analysis of capitalism's dark, wormy side are back in vogue.”

TimesWatch New York Times Movies Books Entertainment Media Dwight Garner
Clay Waters's picture