Jul 132006

What follows is a long extract from an op-ed by Katha Pollitt in the NY Times of July 12, 2006. It illustrates very well (a) that some people want attention more than money, and (b) how (other) people think about it. (I used to read Pollitt’s columns in “The Nation” regularly, and probably still would, if I could spare the attention. The review to which she refers was also published in the Times, and begins with the ignorant implication that feminists in the seventies actually did burn bras. Any review that starts from such a point is clearly biased to begin with. )

“‘ACTUALLY, this is good,’ my editor said when my book got panned. ‘It’s a long review by a well-known person. It’s on a good page. It’s even got a caricature of you.’

“True, the drawing made me look like a demented chicken — a fat demented chicken — but as he explained, art meant space and space meant respect and respect meant attention. As my former husband put it, quoting Dr. Johnson as is his wont, ‘I would rather be attacked than unnoticed.’ Even in the 18th century, it seems, there was no such thing as bad publicity.

“Unless, of course, it’s your own. In the days that followed, I discovered something interesting about my writer friends. Here I had thought of them as anxious and sensitive, taking to their beds, or the phone, or both, when professional setbacks came their way. How often had I had the conversation about the culture editor with a grudge dating back to the reign of Tiberius, the clueless reviewer, the publicist who stops returning your phone calls and the publisher who suggests you consider another line of work?

“But that was them. My bad review was something else again: my writer friends thought it was great. It was an opportunity, a platform, a megaphone, a lemon about to be transmuted into the most ambrosial lemonade. The very things that made it bad made it good: its frivolity displayed my depth, its confusion threw into relief my steely logic, its snark showed all too clearly who the real wit was.

“‘Yes, it was pretty negative, and your arms looked like tree stumps,’ said one friend, helpfully. ‘But so what? That just means you’re a star!’ ” [SNIP]

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