The front of Wednesday's 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.'