Thinking bad thoughts is a metaphor for questioning conventional wisdom. It is, he says in his introduction, "a refusal to recognize intellectual no-fly zones." It honors neither the right, nor the left. It is the faith that no subject no matter how morally indefensible, "should be ruled out of bounds, no thought forbidden." You can analyze the homoerotic implications of sports or the ubiquitous tide of kinky porn on the internet. Conversely, no subject is so sacrosanct it can't be examined critically. You can talk about the Disneyfication of the Holocaust, and you can even indulge in a little word play when you do so. You can call your essay "Shoah Business." And to show that you are an equal opportunity offender, you can take on John Paul II as his earthly remains lie in state. Thinking bad thoughts isn't necessarily going to endear you to the masses.
Mark Dery is an intellectually challenging writer. He makes few concessions to his readers. He has high expectations. Reading him takes some effort, but he is worth it. He is witty. He is amusing. He is stimulating. The essays in I Must Not Think Bad Thoughts will force you to examine ideas you more than likely have never thought about before. You may end up disagreeing with a lot of what he has to say; you may end up disagreeing with everything he has to say. You may be shocked; you may take it all as a mere intellectual exercise. But one thing is certain he will make you think.