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Joe Morgenstern’s “‘Nebraska: State of Grace” Purloins Putative Insight

In response to Joe Morgenstern’s 541‑word review of Nebraska on Wall Street Journal

By ,

Joe Morgenstern’s “‘Nebraska: State of Grace” is an intellectual movie review that flirts with poesis and insight, while delivering a heaping plate of stylistic pretentiousness.

Morgenstern captures the reader’s attention with a capstone opening paragraph, which he attempts to play-out across a rolling, nimbus landscape of rich textures and language idyllic for professorial types. Unfortunately, his vocabulary is quite likely to be out of reach for the general reading audience, like a gimlet with far too much lime juice.

At times, Morgenstern’s grace and generosity of description shines for the studious and creatively inclined reader, yet at other times, he punctuates his opinion with such pungent verbosity that he simply cuts-off creative voice in colossal swoops of intellectualized adjectives. His style goes beyond GRE-level and into the very heart of a thesaurus-like mind. Unfortunately, mainstream and academic readers alike may find it exceptionally difficult to engage with its semantic beating.

Morgernstern undoubtedly expresses numerous insights, explaining key plot themes and characters carefully. The problem is that his insights function more as epistemological analysis than reader entertainment. The intersection of movie-review-world and general reading audience is eclipsed by a philosophical awareness that feels purloined by bourgeois sentiments, ultimately making State of Grace a writing example of inaccessibility.    

Quality of Writing Quality of Argument Spoiler Avoidance Presentation