In Praise of Denis Dutton

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I was off-network for longer over Christmas than I'd expected, and only learned a few days ago that Denis Dutton, founder and guiding intellect of Arts and Letters Daily, had died. I wanted to offer a few belated words of tribute.

I adored A&L--"a daily reading list, with attitude," Dutton called it--from the start. The site's tastes seemed uncannily aligned with my own. Every piece it linked to was worth reading. The presentation was simple and unfussy. No pictures, no video; no Facebook, no Twitter, no time-wasting clutter. The links (all of them, apparently, written by Dutton himself) were clever and funny, and expressed a lightly carried sense of purpose: opposed to pretentiousness and obfuscation, standing for curiosity, skepticism and open-mindedness. Some obituarists called Dutton a contrarian--meaning to forgive, I think, certain of his views they objected to (on climate change, for instance). No, a contrarian opposes for the sake of opposing. That was not Dutton. Open-mindedness is not contrarianism.

I regret never meeting him. We exchanged emails from time to time; he was always charming and modest. A couple of times I hoped our paths were about to cross but it never happened.

There are links to obituaries on the site. The ones I liked best were Theodore Dalrymple's in City Journal and D.G. Myers's on A Commonplace Blog.

A&L was the first highbrow aggregator of its kind and with Dutton in charge it remained the best. I hope it continues and wish it well, but can't help thinking he is irreplaceable.

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Clive Crook is a senior editor of The Atlantic and a columnist for Bloomberg View. He was the Washington columnist for the Financial Times, and before that worked at The Economist for more than 20 years, including 11 years as deputy editor. Crook writes about the intersection of politics and economics. More

Crook writes about the intersection of politics and economics.

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