Wednesday, January 21, 2004

"Literary" digression: department of unpleasant trends
Katha Pollitt, is, of course, infinitely more bearable than David Denby, the other New Yorker writer who has been revealing unsavory personality traits to an uncaring world. In fact, I think I used to "like" Pollitt, back when one read the Nation -- or at least I felt then that she somehow redeemed that gruelling slog. Denby, conversely, has been an excuse to finish the New Yorker just a little faster on alternate weeks -- for which we would have been grateful were it not for the embarassing juxtaposition with Anthony Lane.

Stalking your asshole marxist ex-, then presenting it as a midlife upper west side parable (as Pollit did in the last New Yorker) is just distasteful and wrongheaded, whereas Denby's faith in the relevance of his disgusting personality flaws is actually offensive. I mean, there is something unspeakably sad about Pollit's personal disaster (as in an earlier piece where she tries to learn to drive), sad in a voyeuristic way that might legitimately be confused with an important lesson for us all. Denby's need to fabricate even the most banal lesson from his nocturnal transgressions (or, earlier, his allegedly refreshing willingness to announce his own stupidity and go back to college) is too obviously threadbare to inspire anything but faint revulsion.

The morals of this story, then, are twofold. Dear baby boomers:

1. please spare us the personal revelations tarted up as profound insights into the human spirit. Just because you are even more pathetic than you previously suspected doesn't mean you have to share it. If you stay quiet, maybe it will go away.

2. Also, you should probably learn how to use this inter-web if you plan to keep writing about it.

1/26: Now, more unpleasantness at Low Culture.


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