I end up on the wrong side of critic John Pearley Huffman more often than not, likely giving him the impression that I don't like him. I do like him. And it's thus with a little melancholy and nothing but good will that I share his last review for The New York Times – last because the paper is foolishly shuttering its Automobiles section.
Pearley, best as I can tell, is one of those older guys who doesn't quite understand how the Internet works. Or, perhaps more accurately, understands it just enough to know what he doesn't like about it. If you were to put him and Aaron Sorkin in a room they'd probably have many sentiments they'd share about how people like us are assaulting a profession he devoted much of his life to.
The one difference might be that Sorkin believes that we need Great Men to save us and Pearley's view – at least the one I've been able to cobble together after many arguments on Facebook – is that enough mediocre men, with great ideas and proper copy editing, are good enough.
So why give him any more attention or credit? Pearley can write, dammit. Say what you will about his demeanor, he's not untalented. There are a lot of assholes losing their jobs at a lot of publications lately who didn't have the decency to stroke out and die and instead continue to haunt the rest of us on social media like Marley's ghosts (only whiter and less effectual). I won't eulogize any of them because I never cared about them.
Pearley winds me up because he can structure an argument. He can make me care, even when I just want to ignore him. When he's wrong he's at least wrong with style. Actually, in many ways, he'd have been the perfect writer for the Internet if he'd grown up in a different generation.
So yeah, go read him. Go read some of his old stuff, too. He's not dead and I'm sure he'll continue to write for other people, but the NYT is an institution and one of its more interesting voices is leaving its pages.