About Me

Kyle Smith (Twitter: @rkylesmith) is critic-at-large for National Review, theater critic for The New Criterion and the author of the novels Love Monkey and A Christmas Caroline. Type a title in the box above to locate a review.

Buy Love Monkey for $4! "Hilarious"--Maslin, NY Times. "Exceedingly readable and wickedly funny romantic comedy"--S.F. Chronicle. "Loud and brash, a helluva lot of fun"--Entertainment Weekly. "Engaging romp, laugh-out-loud funny"-CNN. "Shrewd, self-deprecating, oh-so-witty. Smith's ruthless humor knows no bounds"--NPR

Buy A Christmas Caroline for $10! "for those who prefer their sentimentality seasoned with a dash of cynical wit. A quick, enjoyable read...straight out of Devil Wears Prada"--The Wall Street Journal

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  • Ladies, Cry at Work….If You Want to Stay on the Girl Track

    By kyle | March 18, 2016

    In a column, I respond to an Atlantic think piece inviting ladies to cry at work. Big mistake.

    Topics: Magazines | 1 Comment »

    The New New Republic

    By kyle | February 4, 2013

    The reworked New Republic has much to commend it, in my view, having brought back Michael Kinsley and Michael Lewis. There’s a good piece by David Thomson as well. Kinsley’s reflections on TNR (which I used to read with great attention when I was a centrist Democrat in the late 80s and early 90s) are delightful, and political writing in general would do well to aspire to Kinsley’s lightness of touch. Here he is on the difficulty of getting words from New York to Washington in ancient times:

    If a piece was too long to be dictated by phone, we would order the author to LaGuardia looking, like Diogenes, for an honest man or woman in the Eastern Shuttle boarding area. The author would beg this person to take our precious cargo of words to National Airport (not yet Reagan National) where someone from The New Republic would try to spot him or her and retrieve the manuscript.

    FedEx, which would pick up a manuscript at a New York intellectual’s apartment and reliably deliver it to our offices in Washington the next day, was a tremendous innovation. Fax machines, which arrived a couple years later, were heaven, although at first they were so expensive that we used to cadge faxes from a law firm in the building, a privilege we had to be careful about abusing. Even a successful fax would come out printed on long rolls of oily paper that will be immediately remembered by anyone who had to work with it and is impossible to describe to anyone who never did.

    Topics: Magazines, Politics | 62 Comments »

    Time Bomb

    By kyle | November 3, 2011

    This response from the Paris bureau chief of Time magazine to the apparent Islamist terror-bombing of a French magazine that mocked Islamism really must be read. I can hardly believe Time would run this. The gist is that anyone who provokes someone known to react violently to rhetoric and satire should instead keep his yap shut. Because free speech is not “worth” the price you have to pay for it.

    Okay, so can we finally stop with the idiotic, divisive, and destructive efforts by “majority sections” of Western nations to bait Muslim members with petulant, futile demonstrations that “they” aren’t going to tell “us” what can and can’t be done in free societies? Because not only are such Islamophobic antics futile and childish, but they also openly beg for the very violent responses from extremists their authors claim to proudly defy in the name of common good. What common good is served by creating more division and anger, and by tempting belligerent reaction?

    And who is the writer? Bruce Crumley, who as his bio states

    During his 20-year career at TIME, Crumley has covered virtually every aspect of French political, social and economic life. He has been particularly active in TIME’s coverage of al Qaeda-sponsored terrorism since September 11, 2001-an area he has followed closely since 1994, when France became the favored European target of Islamist extremists.

    So this is the man through whom much of Time’s coverage of Islamist terror gets filtered.

    This censor-thyself rule appears to apply only in consideration of Islamist terrorists, though. I do not believe that if the Tea Party warned it was longing to bomb satirists who offended it, then followed through by blowing up Bill Maher’s studio, that Time magazine would run a piece saying that Maher should measure his words more carefully next time. Nor do I think this rule applies to all religions; if the Catholic church, following through on its long-standing pro-life position, bombed an empty abortion clinic because that would intimidate those who would provide abortions, I do not think Time magazine would take the stance that we should be respectful of all of those who operate out of religious fervor.

    The piece is, of course, a disgrace, but it’s not just that. Time, once conservative, still carries a hint of Establishment authority or at least uncontroversial conventional wisdom about it. It isn’t The Huffington Post. If any substantial number of people have already given in to Islamism as deeply as this Time writer has–if to say, “I love Big Brother” has become this acceptable–it bodes ill for Western values. I am less outraged than sickened.

    Topics: Magazines | 4 Comments »

    Valley of the Trolls

    By kyle | September 12, 2011

    Superb piece of writing from The Atlantic’s James Parker after he set himself the onerous task of watching TMZ:

    I saw, first of all, an office. This is the interior portion of the TMZ show: cubicles, sallow light, layers of human sourness in the carpet-crackle. Like all offices, it reminds one of The Office (U.K. version), with the part of David Brent played in this case by Harvey—a small man, but an enormous parasite, often seen slurping through a straw on some kind of mega-smoothie or protein shake as if on the marrow of Shia LaBeouf. T-shirted, buff, and health-nut radiant, Harvey stands with his elbows resting atop a cubicle partition—the height of which fortuitously promotes biceps-display and a mild flaring of the lats—and faces his swivel-chaired staffers.

    As if on the marrow of Shia LaBeouf. Brilliant!

    Topics: Magazines, TV | 2 Comments »

    Claremont Review of Books Turns Ten

    By kyle | May 7, 2011

    A formidable publication from the right wing of the left coast, the Claremont Review of Books has proven to be an essential conservative journal that regularly features some of the most eminent writers in the movement. Congratulations on their tenth anniversary double issue. A mission statement from 2002:

    The mission of the Claremont Review of Books is to make war on the progressive administrative state and to restore the principles of America’s founding to their rightful and preeminent place in our national life. That’s a tall order. But a century has not diminished the hold of progressive ideas on the American mind. We think that conservatives need, persistently and farsightedly, to wage their battles at the level of ideas if they are to be successful at the level of public policy. And the fact is, every month important conservative books and arguments languish, liberal tomes escape censure, and intelligent works of biography, history, politics, and literature remain unexamined. We aim to change that.

    Get yourself a subscription.

    Topics: Magazines, Politics | No Comments »

    Brits Don’t Floss, Says Brit Billionaire

    By kyle | March 18, 2011

    Poet-raconteur-homme de lettres Felix Dennis is buying Mental Floss, which sounds like an interesting match. Even more interesting is why Dennis hates the title:

    Mr. Dennis summoned Messrs. Pearson and Hattikudur to his office in New York a month later. First he told them Mental Floss is the worst name he’s ever heard, noting that in his native U.K., “People don’t floss.” Then he asked the pair how much they wanted for it.

    Brits don’t floss? That explains everything.

    Topics: Magazines | 1 Comment »

    The Atlantic Is Big

    By kyle | January 7, 2011

    The Atlantic magazine, which I would rank second only to The New Yorker among general-interest magazines*, apparently just turned a profit in the fourth quarter — for the first time in decades. Maybe you could argue that the Atlantic is a unique player in the magazine world, but this is good news for journalism in general, I think. And it makes the magazine’s boyish, princely publisher Justin Smith look pretty good. Making a profit publishing a magazine for smart people who like to read in a wobbly economy? Really freaking impressive.
    One small (i.e. huge) quibble: Benjamin Schwarz’s books coverage has been shrinking. The Schwarz-edited back-of-the-book stuff is by far the most essential reading in the magazine, loaded with witty and fresh takes on culture and books by the impossibly well-read Anglophile Schwarz, Christopher Hitchens, my friend Lori Gottlieb, Sandra Tsing Loh and Caitlin Flanagan. In recent issues, the books pages have been emaciated, though. I’ll bet the Atlantic’s readers are more likely to start with the back than the readers of just about any other magazine. How about giving Schwarz some of those profits so he can rebuild the best section?

    Does the New York Review of Books count as a magazine? If so, is it general-interest?

    Topics: Magazines | 5 Comments »

    Fun City, Then and Now

    By kyle | May 19, 2010

    As David Brooks mentioned in a column this week, my neighbor John Podhoretz delivers a jolt of anti-nostalgia, writing in Commentary about how dissolute and depraved the Upper West Side was when he was growing up 30 years or so ago. “I was mugged four times before I was 14,” he says. Being a New Yorker gave him an excellent reason for being conservative, given the social policies that fueled the fires of disorder. Today there are fewer than one-third as many felonies being committed in the neighborhood as there were in 1964 (and one-fifth as many as there were in 1990).

    Topics: Magazines, New York City, Politics | 1 Comment »

    The New Yorker Does Andrew Breitbart

    By kyle | May 17, 2010

    He’s a “rage machine” who presides over an “empire of bluster”! Yep, and you know what? There are no liberal pundits who are at all angry. But they’re “passionate,” “engaged,” or maybe “morally outraged.” In the profile, Breitbart expresses regret that he and Arianna Huffington, whom he clearly admires and with whom he shares a “skill set,” are on opposite sides. Question: Wouldn’t Huffington and Breitbart be wise to pool resources on a joint site or sites? That would bring in a) a gigantic audience, b) fiercely addicted readers (who would naturally wander over to the opposition side in search of a quarrel) and c) cover for nonpolitical advertisers, who could quite plausibly claim that they aren’t taking any kind of ideological stance but simply supporting the great bustling interchange of ideas and hence would not be subject to ideologically-driven controversy like boycotts. It seems to me the great key to political sites is squaring a circle: How do you make things caliente enough to drive readership but bland enough so that the Procters & Gambles of the world will be comfortable? Note that the Huffington Post still isn’t profitable, though AH claims it will be this year.

    Topics: Magazines, Politics | 8 Comments »

    Maybe It’s Irony, Man

    By kyle | May 12, 2010

    I hold both “Iron Man 2” star Robert Downey Jr . and writer Walter Kirn (“Up in the Air,” “Lost in the Meritocracy”) in high esteem but it looks like Kirn had his hands full trying to make sense of Downey’s gnomic pronunciamentos in his Rolling Stone cover story. The actual interview is hidden behind a pay wall at Rolling Stone, but in the eight-page piece Downey, who reports that he sees a therapist twice a week, wobbles between the prosaic (“This is the worst coffee machine in the world!”) and the effortfully inscrutable.


    “In the Joseph Campbell world of no longer being on anyone else’s path, I’m out there and it’s leafy and green and there’s abundance, but I don’t think it’s amounting to anything other than surviving in the jungle.” (Huh?)

    “In the moment, if you zero out your board, anything is possible.” (Eh?)

    In trying out for “Iron Man,” Downey says he built an “altar to the possibility of self” out of “some intuitively gathered objects” including a “sunstone wand.”

    Of Long Island’s Brookhaven National Laboratory, Downey says the government is producing “supersoldiers” with three levels of detection-foiling: “Hidden,” “Invisible” and “Gone.”

    Kirn tries manfully to parse all of these statements but when he writes, “It’s easy to shrug off such utterances as La-La Land New Age mumbo jumbo,” I thought: It is easy. So that’s exactly what I’ll do.

    Topics: Magazines, Movies | 2 Comments »

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