In the latest incarnation of the Times Book Review, Intern Alexis finds Stones fans writing about the Beatles, old friends turned bitchslapping reviewers, and a healthy dose of cartoon haterade dumped, apropos nothing, really, on lit-crit Dale Peck. Not very bookish, mind you, but it's the sort of thin, slapdash issue you'd expect after Thanksgiving, but Alexis knows a little Googling makes things a lot more interesting. After the jump, her review of the review.
The Times called upon husband-wife food-writing duo Jane and Michael Stern to tag-team Bob Spitz's new gargantuan biography of the Beatles and in the "Up Front" column, "The Editors" reveal that Jane Stern was really "more of a Rolling Stones girl " Thanks for being "Up Front" with us, New York Times Book Review. Isn't it just sort of odd that for one of the biggest, most important Beatles books of our time, the Review would tap someone who acknowledges that she didn't really like the Beatles ? And furthermore, couldn't they have gotten some sort of music journalist to cover this book? What, Chuck Klosterman's on maternity leave?
Mutual masturbation rocks — most of the time.
After reading John Simon's review of Richard Schickel's recent biography of Elia Kazan, our interest was piqued and we had us some fun on Google. And via Greencine, we discovered that only one week ago, Richard Schickel reviewed three books of John Simon's in the LA Times! Go figure! While both reviews were positive John Simon calls Schickel's book: "No mere page turner, this is a page devourer" and Schickel calls Simon, "a critic who improves with age. Or, perhaps what I want to say is that he improves in our age " both get real nitpicky. Turns out that Schickel and Simon go back, way back to the 60s when they edited an obscure film anthology together. Maybe some shit went down back then or maybe Simon read Schickel's review before his, cause this here is some cattiness, y'all.
Shickel wrote in the LA Times:
Simon's style has a similar effect. It is somewhat stiff, enlivened here and there by professorial puns and jokes (some good, some bad), foreign tags and 50-dollar words ("edulcorates," anyone?). And for a man who is relentlessly fastidious about other people's grammar and usage, he sometimes falls into clich s; his teeth, for example, are "set on edge" rather more frequently than they should be.
And Simon writes in the NY Times:
There are typos ("Irwin" for Erwin Piscator, "Tavianni" for the Taviani brothers, "Brodsky" for Harold Brodkey). Also problems of accidence ("whom some thought was a journalist"), subject and verb agreement, tautology ("reverted back") and the nonword "thusly." "The Changeling" is a 17th-century, not a 15th-century, play. "A bathetically bathed Oscar broadcast" is clumsy, and how is progress of a car "not enlightened" by knots of demonstrators?
Man, oh man... Simon's totally bitchslapped Schickel for bitchslapping his grammar and being a complete nitpick freak. This is like some private copyediting vendetta between these two guys. Get these guys a room, and some em-dashes to flog each other with.
When we first glanced at the backpage cartoon-as-essay, "Dale Peck: The Lost Books?" we were all, "Oh Dale Peck, way to have a sense of humor about yourself. Kind of irrelevant, but okay, whatever." Then, we looked a little closer and realized that this Dale Peck-full-of-ugliness was not actually written by Dale Peck but by Rick Meyerowitz, and we started singing a different tune. This is not only irrelevant, but downright mean-spirited!
The intro reads: Dale Peck, who called his fellow novelist Rick Moody "the worst writer of his generation" and gave a collection of his scathing reviews the title "Hatchet Jobs," has now published "Drift House," a genial fantasy novel for children. So much for those other Peck-ish titles we were looking forward to " Below the text is an angry looking Peck surrounded by eight books with titles such as "My Dog Snarky," "Lizzie Borden Was an Amateur" and "America: It'd Be Better Without the People."
Yes, us calling something mean-spirited is a bit, "Yo yo yo pot, wassup, it's kettle," but still, this came from an ugly place, New York Times, an ugly place.