June 09, 2008

Watch out, Lucy

From Lucy Ellmann's review of Chuck Palahniuk's latest:

So not only has America tried to ruin the rest of the world with its wars, its financial meltdown and its stupid stupid food, it has allowed its own literary culture to implode. Jazz and patchwork quilts are still doing O.K., but books have descended into kitsch. I blame capitalism, Puritanism, philistinism, television and the computer.

This is rather similar to the last Lucy Ellmann book review I noticed, in which Francine Prose played the Palahniuk role as symbol of American degeneracy and malfeasance.

Nicholas von Hoffmann famously said he stopped reviewing books because "it's not worth $250 to make an enemy for life."

That's pretty much why I would have stopped doing it, too, if anyone had ever offered me $250. Maybe Lucy Ellmann still hasn't figured out that no one ever, ever, forgets a mean review, or maybe she just doesn't care, which is perhaps admirable in a way. But maybe, like a lot of reviewers I have met, she just assumes that you'll be a good sport about it if she ever wants to be on a guest list or happens to meet you in a dark alley. Now Francine might well be that kind of sport, for all I know, but if I were Lucy I'd probably feel vaguely nervous about Chuck.

(via The American Scene.)

Posted by Dr. Frank at June 9, 2008 10:47 PM | TrackBack

I think that journalists honestly do believe that they are safe behind the deflector shields of the fourth estate, and that there are no real-world consequences to eviscerating someone else in print. This detachment from the real-world is amazing to witness in person.

A few years ago, I did a big interview for a fairly high-profile music mag, and provided cover art for the issue in which it was published. In the very next issue, the editor wrote a piece about what an egotistical asshole I was. A couple of months later, I was introduced to her at a party, and she fell all over herself thanking me for appearing in the magazine, blah blah blah. I should have let her have it at that point, but I was so flabbergasted at the sheer fucking gall on display, I couldn't even come up with anything nasty to say!

Posted by: COOP at June 9, 2008 11:43 PM

Is Palahniuk really "literary culture?" And as far as I know, I don't think America has cornered the market on malfeasance.

But if she really felt that way, she should speak her mind. But I think most good critics tend to be a bit more forgiving. Sad she's so mean. Like one of those people who insults you about your shirt or something, then says something like, "I'm just being honest." More like taking opportunity to air grievances having nothing to do with anything.

And what the hell is wrong with a simple, plaid shirt anyway!

Posted by: Nate Pensky at June 10, 2008 06:34 AM

Even more dangerous is writing negative reviews of Islamic Emo Thug rappers like Nick Zero of www.myspace.com/pseudointellectuals - I had him arrested for threatening to eff me in the butt and sending deranged emails to my coworkers after I interviewed him and made fun of him.

Posted by: chris riordan at June 10, 2008 07:27 PM

It's too bad for Palahniuk that the Times didn't give his book to Janet Maslin to review: apparently Maslin in her review went ga-ga over James Frey's debut novel, "Bright Shiny Morning," which I read off of the shelves at the bookstore I work at parttime...and, well, it holds the distinction of being maybe the worst book I have ever looked at in my life.

Posted by: David at June 10, 2008 11:52 PM