A thought experiment: think of a non-fiction writer whose work you admire, and imagine that the writer and yourself have been assigned to the same team for a work project. What would your immediate reaction be?
Writers I would be more than happy to work with: Ian Hacking, Mary Beard, Bertrand Russell, Umberto Eco, William James. With some trepidation: Auden, Brian Eno, Brigid Brophy.
Oh, dear god, no: Shaw, Robert Hughes.
(I don’t admire either but I thought of this test when trying to articulate my objections to the anonymous knobs who write The Economist or Christopher Hitchens, I can’t remember which. Imagine working with Hitchens. Stop laughing at the back. By the way, did you know that Hitchens defended David Irving? I only found out the other week, and I think it bears repeating.)