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March 12, 2004

The New York Times Takes Marching Orders From 2Blowhards

Dear Friedrich --

Do you get the feeling that we're being watched? I do.

  • We go on (and, admittedly, on and on) about the New Classicism in architecture. Yesterday, the NYTimes profiles the terrific New Classicist Thomas Gordon Smith, here.
  • We promote a more open way of discussing books and book publishing, and the Times goes looking for exactly that attitude in their new Book Review editor. A story about who they've chosen for the position is here.
  • We rave about the too-little-known novelist Tom Perrotta. And um, er -- whose new novel would you guess is on the cover of the upcoming Sunday NYTimes Book Review Section? Right you are. (This story isn't online yet.)

Spooky! Next thing you know, the Times will start championing 19th century American art, running appreciations of Anne Coulter, dissecting contempo magazine design, wondering what's what with young gals these days, and covering the topic of immigration. Oh, wait: they recently started taking note of immigration. Good lord, they're snapping at our heels.

I don't know how all this copycatting makes me feel. On the one hand, it's only just (of course) that the world should be coming 'round to our way of seeing. On the other, if the Times continues to take its cue from us, things will soon get to the point where nothing Times-ian will be left to complain about. And I do love bitching about the Times.

I dread the day when everyone finally sees sense and agrees with us, don't you? Because then we'll have to come up with something new to annoy people with, and -- at our slowing-down stage in life -- I don't know whether I'll have it in me. Fires burn only so long.

In the meantime, what do you say we demand a consultant's fee?



posted by Michael at March 12, 2004


You'll want to charge by the hour, I doubt you'll actually get much for the time you spend on each entry.:)

Posted by: Alan Kellogg on March 12, 2004 2:39 PM

Sue their asses off!

Posted by: Socratic Method on March 12, 2004 3:21 PM

Is Doris Goodwin working at the Times now? Did they rehire that Blair fellow?

Posted by: Mister Peepers on March 12, 2004 3:23 PM

They are undoubtedly safer following you than Jayson Blair. So how come he's got the book deal?

I saw him interviewed last night. His explanation for his behavior was essentially insecurity. Then he said, well, I was sick, but that didn't really count. Then, as an aside, he said it was an undiagnosed manic-depressive condition. I think the guy's a full-o'-@#@# as ever!!!

Posted by: annette on March 12, 2004 4:05 PM


I think you have probably disappointed Mr. Russell again by referring to Miss Coulter.



Posted by: ZEKE on March 12, 2004 5:34 PM

Annette, Blair was on WNYC today to be interviewed by Brian Lehrer. Brian Lehrer was quite up front with him about the discussion they had had about whether to book a liar and cheat for a segment; Blair took it well, with effusive good humor.

He got a $150,000 advance for his book, with $25K on top for British serial rights and another $2,500 for Hebrew rights. He's going to give "some" of it to charity.

The only thing I can figure is that it's some sick and twisted test for us all from a disgruntled arts deity in a REALLY bad mood.

Posted by: Linus on March 12, 2004 6:48 PM

I think you have probably disappointed Mr. Russell again by referring to Miss Coulter.

Not at all, no. He's talking about the NYT praising Coulter, not doing it himself :)

Posted by: James Russell on March 13, 2004 7:26 AM

Surprise surprise. The Times doesn't have an original thought in its collective PC head.
On second thought....why am I not surprised?!

Posted by: ricpic on March 13, 2004 10:46 AM

LOL ... Do you suppose the Times has any idea how disrespectful many people feel towards it?

To put on a slightly straight face, I'm getting the feeling that the Times has been (in its dinosaur-slow way) doing a little something to freshen itself up since the Howell Raines debacle. Does anyone else get that feeling too? They seem less strident, more open, and a little less insistent on selling their vision and a little more curious about what the world's actually like. A question of millimeters, admittedly, but everything's appreciated. Does anyone else get that feeling too? Am I hallucinating?

Posted by: Michael Blowhard on March 13, 2004 11:47 AM

I'm continually amazed at the degree to which people who notice good work seem to confuse themselves with the people who did it. To wit: 1) It's a little silly to call someone who's always cited along with the massively popular "Election" "too-little-known", isn't it? 2) It's P.'s third novel, so I'd say he's pretty due for the big Times treatment. 3) If anyone should be thanked, it's Ann Hulbert and Caitlin Flanagan, who've made parenting a certifiably buzz-worthy topic in major media outlets of late.

I'm very happy for Perotta's growing fame. However, I rather think he deserves the credit for it.

Posted by: Old Hag on March 13, 2004 3:35 PM

Um, you seem not to have noticed that the whole posting was a joke. I suppose I'm as prone to delusions of grandeur as the next blogger, but this wasn't one of those cases.

As for Perrotta -- sure he's too little-known. I've been pushing him on friends since his first book, and have been amazed over and over by how many people who keep up some haven't heard of him. They'll know Charles Frazier and Anne Tyler and Michael Ondaatje and Nick Hornby, but they'll never have heard of Perrotta. I know book critics who've never read him. He's never sold hugely, never had much buzz or heat around him, and reviews of him have never been very large or prominent. I'm pretty sure he's never been nominated for any of the big prizes, and he's certainly never had a bestseller. I believe this is his fourth novel and fifth book, by the way --"The Wishbones," "Election," "Joe College," the new one, and his early stories, "Bad Haircut."

Posted by: Michael Blowhard on March 13, 2004 4:09 PM

If it's a joke, what's the punch line? Oh, right -- The Times doesn't read us at all, and our ideas are not particularly singular! Hilarious.

Perrotta's an uneven writer, which is probably why "Wishbones" got so little attention. (I forgot about it completely, as you see.) This book, like "Election" also tackles larger themes -- I think we can agree that "Bad Haircut" and "Joe College" fit safely in the semi-autobiographical tradition of first novels, even if they're not. Except for that rare writer who achieves prize money and fame right out of the gate, most writers take about three or four books to start to penetrate the general consciousness -- which they only do if they're lucky, anyway. And finally, "Joe College", not anywhere near his best, was a New York Times Notable Book, and The Times has been reviewing Perrotta -- in full -- since "The Wishbones".

It's good that you've been with him from the beginning, but so have tons of others -- including dim-bulbs like the NYTBR and Hollywood.

Posted by: Old Hag on March 13, 2004 5:12 PM

Heavens, judging from your antagonistic tone -- is there a reason for it? -- I can see why my light-irony thing doesn't register. I'll try to come up with a slammin' punchline just for you next time around.

As for Perrotta, we'll have to agree to disagree. I think he's one of the best, and that while he's certainly been respectfully treated, he's gotten nothing like the recognition that I think he deserves. As I say: he's too-little recognized. There's an implicit IMHO there, by the way, and if you disagree that's fine with me. Small matter of fact, though: I think you're more than a little off when you say "tons" of people have been with him since the beginning. Publishers haven't been clamoring to publish him -- he's at St Martins! And I know current-lit fans who've never heard of him, book reviewers who haven't read him, and book editors who respond with zero enthusiasm to the idea of covering him. And when I've mentioned him on this blog, next to no one gives evidence of knowing his work. So "tons" of people being on his side? That may be overstating it a bit.

Posted by: Michael Blowhard on March 13, 2004 5:28 PM

I don't disagree with any of your comments about Perrotta's fame OR lack thereof -- obviously, we can look at the same facts and see the glass either way we want. But I'm just saying that Perrotta's in the same position as MOST good literary novelists, barring the occasional Eggersian blowout. Which is to say that a) most people don't know about him and b) publishers aren't that interested. Literature, in the main, doesn't sell. If editors want to keep their jobs, they're not going to get THAT into it. It's not evil; it doesn't even mean they don't like an author. But for every Rick Moody, there's a Perrotta, a Jonathan Dee, a yet-undiscovered Edward Jones. Who knows why some break out and some don't? Buzz and fame are no indicator of skill.

I apologize if I sound antagonistic. But I don't think it's clear to your readers above that you're joking about the Times thing. It seems more like you're SORT of joking but sort of happy to have readers believe you at the same time. And while I'm all for bashing the Times (believe me), it's pretty easy to tell when the Times is reading your site -- it shows up. And they, in fact, are very generous (more so than some places) about calling up bloggers and asking for pieces when they see things they like instead of just stealing them.

Posted by: Old Hag on March 13, 2004 5:55 PM

Oh who cares. No one reads the Times anymore anyway, except for Old humorless Hags.

Go back to your knitting.

Posted by: Mister Peepers on March 13, 2004 6:11 PM

Yep, that's me. Humorless.
P.S. Dude, I'm not the one who brought up the Times.

Posted by: Old Hag on March 13, 2004 6:16 PM


Posted by: Mister Peepers on March 13, 2004 6:24 PM

It seemed nicer than "motherfucker." Can you say that on this blog?

I apologize for injecting such a note of peevishness onto the comments thread. I was really only trying to point out that, at this point in his career, Perrotta is about as well known as your typical literary novelist can hope to get. It's a subtle point, and I'm not surprised I couldn't make it at all. I'll return to finishing the work I'm supposed to be doing.

Posted by: Old Hag on March 13, 2004 6:28 PM

Right. Go back to your motherfucking work.

Posted by: Mister Peepers on March 13, 2004 6:34 PM

Don't be so mad just because you believed -- oh, you believed! -- M. Peep. But those left-wing Zionistas at the Grey Lady have better blogs to rip off, believe me.

Posted by: Old Hag on March 13, 2004 7:00 PM

Mad? Moi? (Now would be a good time for you to reread your own posts.)

And what's all this about left-wing Zionistas? Are they some Central American rebel group?

And who is this Grey Lady you speak of? Is she an Old Hag like you?

You're not making much sense. Perhaps you're trying too hard to be subtle again. Or perhaps you just don't write very well. Here's a book which might help.

Bonne Chance!

Posted by: Mister Peepers on March 13, 2004 7:42 PM

It's a "Here's a book THAT might help," you dumbass. "Which" follows a comma.

Okay. I AM seriously done now. Mr. Peepers, please don't need the last word here. I can't procrastinate any more. Be kind and let me wallow in it.

Posted by: Old Hag on March 13, 2004 7:56 PM

Tweet! Basta!

That's it. Fun's over.

Por favor anyway.

Posted by: Michael Blowhard on March 13, 2004 8:17 PM

Why are you correcting my grammar and calling me names? Are you some kind of foul-mouthed schoolmarm?

And what is this work you're in no apparent hurry to do? Could it be your work is to annoy people?

BTW, I'm writing an essay on boll weevils. Would you mind proofreading it when I'm done? Thanks.

Okay, I'm done. Good luck with that procrastinating and wallowing.


Posted by: Mister Peepers on March 13, 2004 8:21 PM

I am, actually.

No, I am finishing a big project and I'm, of course, several weeks past the deadline.

I am a global expert in the art of annoying others.

And I'm still procrastinating!

Michael, if you dragged me out BY THE HAIR at this point, you'd be justified. You are fully invited to haunt my backblog in a procrastinatory breakdown any time.

Posted by: Old Hag on March 13, 2004 8:31 PM

Get WWW.IDEBTCONSOLIDATION.ORG the debt relief you are searching for here!

Posted by: consolidate debt on June 7, 2004 3:28 PM

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