LADIES AND GENTLEMEN: Since when is animal cruelty a joke? What is with the Widmer Beer ad with the struggling kitten [April 14]? Beer is TOXIC to a kitten, why is that acceptable ad copy?
You offend me weekly with things you write, but I read your columns because I know you have something valid to say. But some things just aren't funny. Gay bashing isn't funny. Child abuse isn't funny. Rape isn't funny. And animal cruelty isn't funny, either.
Mary Jane M. Gibbons
EDITOR'S NOTE: It's not a real kitten. All the real kittens were tragically drowned or poisoned in the making of the ad in question, and consequently, a team of special effects wizards was called in to create a photorealistic kitten image. P.S. They were not real wizards.
HATE THE PLAYA
EDITOR: Though I live in New York City, I am a dedicated Stranger reader, owing in part to what I find are more often than not informed, brave, and humorous reviews. I so often agree with Stranger reviews, in fact, that I frequently let word of mouth and The Stranger decide what I will see, read, and listen to. But, man, did your boy drop the ball on this one. I disagree with Christopher Frizzelle's review of Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close ["Everything Is Obliterated," April 14] almost entirely, but that's okay. What bothers me about Frizzelle's review is what I can only call "hatin'."
Frizzelle's review disintegrates fairly quickly from a literary review to critic bashing. Michiko Kakutani is fun to fight with, and I frequently disagree with many things she says myself, but Frizzelle's blanket and obsessive disregard of everything from her opinion to her vocabulary and pet words (see: "limn") smack of sour grapes. It's hatin'. Kakutani is an important critic and I respect Frizzelle--can't both girls be pretty? What's most disappointing is that I was looking forward to a typical "fuck the rest of 'em, here's what we think" Stranger review, and I feel like I was on the receiving end of reactionary schlock. What some might call "hurting America." That's too far, but so was the Frizzelle on Kakutani slander.
'GUNNER PALACE' EERILY ACCURATE
DEAR EDITOR: On a recent trip up to Seattle to see Gunner Palace, I picked up a copy of The Stranger. After seeing the movie, I read Sean Nelson's review [On Screen, March 10], and I have to commend him for exactly the tough, critical language Americans need to hear about what our soldiers are doing abroad. Let's face it, in their leisure hours between missions, if they're not sleeping, they're playing grab-ass and getting into all sorts of trouble. Additionally, soldiers speak of each other in the most derogatory, racist, and misogynistic ways imaginable. However, what astonished me about the tone of Mr. Nelson's review is how surprised he seems to be at their behavior. Frankly speaking, just how do Mr. Nelson and the American public suppose soldiers lead their daily lives in a war zone?
"Vulgar bullies"? Yes. "Slow-eyed fucks"? Absolutely. From the college-educated officer corps to the lowliest enlisted man, the military does not comprise the smartest, sanest individuals on the planet. In fact, the quality of today's soldier has been diluted by the hated "fast track" promotions the Army has instituted to allow literally thousands of young soldiers to become instant leaders--largely because the ones who struggled to get those positions are either dead, dismembered, or have left the forces in disillusioned frustration following their deployments. Moreover, basic training has become less rigid for new recruits for fear of scaring them away, and combat veterans can easily tell the difference. A lot of these fellows are just operating on gangsta-style piss and vinegar to carry them through training. And then they're sent to Iraq. Just like the posters on Capitol Hill say: "Join the Army; Replacements Needed." (Act now and be stationed at a fancy palace with private pool.)
But back to the review. Mr. Nelson was perhaps reacting to the film as one who sees himself in a mirror in the morning: He knows it's his reflection, but doesn't want to acknowledge it. If the Armed Forces are a reflection of America, then not only are we in huge trouble, but we have proven ourselves to be the very vulgar, bullying, slow-eyed fucks that Mr. Nelson described.
I should know: I was in Iraq for a year. And for all the narrative flaws in Gunner Palace, it currently is the best piece of cinematic history we have on the primitive reality of combat in Iraq.
SPC William Brody, Ft. Lewis, WA
TO THE EDITOR: Thank you for covering the story of the Weekly axing our vibrator ad ["Bad Vibrations," Nancy Drew, April 14]. It was a very enjoyable read. Just one correction, Toys in Babeland is not San Francisco based! We are a Seattle company born and bred. We opened on Pike Street in 1993 and we're proud to call Seattle HQ. Toys in Babeland is Seattle flavor all the way. The blend of progressive politics, alternative creative culture, cheap rents (in '93 anyway), and long winters spent indoors were the ideal womb for the genesis of the country's hippest sex-toy shop. We're from Seattle, we love Seattle, and we're based in Seattle. Seattle Rocks!
Cofounder, Toys in Babeland
SPEAKING OF DILDOS…
DEAR EDITOR: Bethany Jean Clement's review of Crush ["Sexy, Sexy, Sexy," April 14] was one of the most bizarre and sophomoric restaurant reviews I've ever read. She sounds like one very sexually repressed individual. Please advise her to either get laid or buy a dildo.
THANSK FOR WRITING
STRANGER: Okay, you guys have errors all the time, but "POLANKSI"? In the subtitle? ["The Greatest Film of All Time," Sean Nelson, April 14.] That is a forehead slapper if ever there was one. Do you need a copy editor? If you're looking, I'm applying.
Levi MacLeish Fuller
EDITOR: When are you going to add a liberal blogger/writer to counteract that Drunk of the Week, Stefan Sharkansky?
KINGS OF LEON FANS PLEASE NOTE! After our music section went to press late Monday evening we discovered that the ad on page 58 for the Kings of Leon in-store at Easy Street Records got the day wrong. The correct information is: Kings of Leon in-store performance and signing, WEDNESDAY April 27, 6:30 p.m., Easy Street Queen Anne, 20 Mercer St. Free, all ages. Sorry about that.
HATE CRIME LAWYER SPEAKS FOR GOD
DEAR STRANGER: Aside from the emotional inflammatory jargon, Eli Sanders shows the ability to write a good article [“God Was With Them,” March 31]. He lacks the ability to do so without revealing his bias against Christians. I suppose most homosexuals feel Christians are their enemies since we have morals based on God’s viewpoint and not man’s. The misconception however fails to take into account that from God’s viewpoint “all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.” That includes Christians who are commanded not to judge homosexuals since Christians are sinners themselves.
Eli is correct that I indicated that homosexuals are overly protected. I pointed out that in the gay pride parade there are public displays of nudity that would subject heterosexuals to arrest if they were to parade in like fashion. This is disparate application of the law based on one’s sexual orientation and a violation of equal rights. I further pointed out that in the last 30 years homosexuals have gone from being felons and mentally imbalanced to accepted. During that same period Christian’s have gone from accepted to homophobic bigots. The word “gay” has gone from lighthearted and or carefree to one who engages in anal sex. I was merely painting out to the jury the change in the moral viewpoint of a segment of out population. There are still communities outside of Seattle and San Francisco where this change has not occurred.
Micah Painter has to face the truth. No amount of posturing and semantics can cover it no matter who is the author. Micah was high on drugs, acting obnoxious in public, overly sensitive to people noticing what he was openly advertising, had a chip on his shoulder, and when confronted with a drunken man who he thought he could “take”, became the aggressor. As a result he was cut. For this every one including the defendants and their defense counsel are sorry. This is not “gay bashing”. No one was out looking to beat up homosexuals. It was just an unfortunate occurrence brought on by an unbelievable concurrence of events and circumstances. Hopefully, all have learned a lesson for the best. Sincerely.
Thomas S. Olmstead
Attorney for Defendant Samusenko
STILL ANGRY ABOUT MICAH
DEAR EDITOR: I don’t follow the news much, I come from allot of senseless child abuse so when I see senseless acts of violence the pain and anger sits in my stomach like a rock tormenting me for hours. I hate it so much the only way to avoid it is to try and not see or hear of it.
I’m not a gay man, however I grew up in conservative Wenatchee in a Pentecostal church which preached the same bullshit I read about in this story. I was accused of being gay, I had no father and I’m a pretty sensitive and creative man never afraid to cry a tear or lend a hand and being somewhat effeminate I received my share of ass beatings. Even after I moved to Seattle I went to a party with a girlfriend and the drunken rednecks said I acted gay, they attacked me and held me over the third story balcony by my ankles, six of them. I’m still mistaken for gay on occasion and have been in situations that made me quite terrified.
Stuff like this makes me so angry, the religious right is responsible for so much injustice, pain, hate and above all ignorance I fear they will be the end of us all. If there is a god I pray that he bring his second coming, take these abominations with him so we sinners can live in peace and tranquility or maybe give them a little taste of their own and beat the ass of a gay hating preacher and tell him it was God’s message to him to get and education. This hate is his fault and the fault of his colleagues.
I have so much respect for the strength of the gay’s in our community and pray that someday we can all understand that gay isn’t a choice, it just is. Does anyone really believe that one would choose this difficult life over and easier one. So why are these people so threatened by it. Thank you for your time. Sincerely.
POLITICS IS RUINING POLITICS
EDITOR: The Finkbiner article [“Republican Fink,” Sandeep Kaushik, April 14] shows on a common problem with “Gay Marriage” and that is it has become too clouded by politics. Gay Marriage has become a complicated problem when lumped with other issues that politicians use to distract from a fundamental constitutional issues. This all boils down to “the right to equality”. Actually I am viewing this from a Canadian point of view, it is the same and based upon our countries’ constitutions which say everyone is equal. Yes we have a constitution too that says everyone is equal but some politicians like to distract from that point fro their own gain. Politicians are in office to uphold the basic rights and principles drawn out in a constitution and no matter how many distracting issues politicians and religious groups tag onto the “Gay Marriage” debate (pro choice, sin, family values, morality... good or bad) it all comes down to a simple issue of equality. To me the Finkbeiner article definitely shows how (as Rep. Larry Springer says) “It’s the kind of issue that could be made into a political issue”. It shows how politics seem to be more important than the real issue of equality. If any politician, like Bush, or in Canada Stephen Harper (Canadian opposition leader opposing Gay Marriage) were to say any other minority group (pick one) was not allowed equal rights the leaders would be asked to resign based upon discrimination and it would probably ruin their careers but for some reason it is ok to discriminate against gays and lesbians and feel comfortable with it. Is this because deep down there is a primal need to hate someone or a group. Do we feel like we are being controlled by laws that hold us back from an overwhelming need to have a group to discriminate against and have it be ok? Is it ok given the means and numbers to collectively feel comfortable discriminating against a group? Well it seems so! It has happened before and is happening all over the world now, organized discrimination for some to advance politically. Some people seem justified and feel no guilt or shame. Like I said “any other minority group (pick one) was not allowed equal rights the leaders would be asked to resign based upon discrimination”.
The article on Bill Finkbeiner reads like a soap opera based upon politics and shows a basic problem can be complicated so that the fundamental issue of equality can be clouded. Gay Marriage is really a sub issue representing equality. For some reason we have to ask for permission to be equal. Something no person, especially in the US or Canada should have to ask for or demand at any time from anyone. The constitution already says we are equal so all politicians should be upholding the constitution without all the clouded debate and political maneuvering as shown in the “ Republican Fink” article. There should be quick resolutions to the Gay Marriage because it is an equality issue based upon what already exists in the constitution. We are equal we can do what everyone else that is equal can do end of story, move on. Equality lets people practice many things other groups do not believe in or be equal even though visibly different. You can be Christian or Jewish, Republican or Democrat, black or white and also should be able to be gay or straight and get married or divorced. It lets the differences exist as equal with the help of a constitution. The politics of the Finkbeiner article probably would not exist if politicians did their job upholding the constitution. Instead there is too much political wrangling that that gets in the way letting organized sanctioned discrimination exist.
Many people experience discrimination over and over and some, even though they have been discriminated against they seem justified and comfortable joining with the organized government sanctioned discrimination going on now. Power in numbers I guess. But I always say just because you can does not mean you should. In other words; just because you have large numbers of people discriminating with the endorsement of political and religious leaders does not make discrimination right. It just makes you feel comfortable and justified to hate and discriminate and for politicians like in the article on Finkbeiner to cloud the issue of “equal rights” as it is defined in the constitution. I guess we are accustomed to politicians clouding issues. Next politicians will be justifying war by clouding the rights of others just for political gain. Oh right that’s already happening. Who’s next?
WRONG AGAIN, SHARKANSKY
EDITOR: Stefan Sharkansky argues that errors, or fraud, in King County revise the odds in Washington’s election contest in Dino Rossi’s favor [Sound Bites, April 14]. Sharkansky says that “it will become clear that King County’s mistakes will make it impossible for Christine Gregoire to continue claiming she won the election fair and square.”
While it might be true that King County voting was surely messed up somehow, Sharkansky is wrong in his assertion that this renders the November election null and void, and Gregoire’s “claim” on the Governorship suspect. There are other counties besides King, and until all counties make public all their records, until all counties show us, the citizens, that there was no fraud anywhere, King County’s problems are King’s alone.
ALL elections must be made free of error and fraud. King County had fraud? What about Chelan? Garfield? Pierce? I’m certain that there was motive in the “Red” counties to mess with their ballots. I know that Pierce County has a large population. Who certified THEIR ballots? Who watched every step of the process and guarantees to us, absolutely, that they were error and fraud free?
Until there is a process to credibly certify our elections, we can only go with the numbers tossed out to us by The Government, and those numbers gave the election to Gregoire. In 2000, they gave the election to Bush.
Until Sharkansky broadens his efforts, until he analyzes the data from every county, every vote, his claim that King County’s error and/or fraud threatens Gregoire is absurd and partisan. It’s been said before: If Gregoire goes, so must Bush. Repair our election system; until then, quit whining.
STICKS AND STONES, SIMS STILL RULES!
DEAR EDITOR: I see I got some strong responses, from Colin Hutchinson and Ron Armstrong, regarding my letter to editor [March 24]. They were both a little insulting but I see they gave no indication they had a better candidate for King County Executive than Ron Sims.
I agree that well-intentioned state growth acts, can hurt individuals unjustly. But these problems can be solved without making the situation worse for everyone. We need to work together to make sure our neighbors outside the city aren’t getting trampled on. But demonizing public administrators and warping the facts—as columnist Stefan did on March 17—for political gain, won’t help. It will make the problem worse.
As to Colin’s objections to my defense of Sims concerning the last election, I never said the handling of elections was acceptable, I said it was a model compared to the rest of the country. Colin fears for this country when I defend fraud. Don’t blame Sims. So far I haven’t seen one piece of evidence that indicates he committed any fraud. Try calling your local prosecutors and ask them why none of these dead people’s relatives, felons or foreigners seem to be getting prosecuted for voting illegally. It’s a good question to ask and I’d like to see it answered publicly, as I’m sure you would.
I’m not defending fraud, I’m trying to point out that Stefan is a liar. Ron Armstrong wrote “Those people are devoid of reality and the desire to live free. They want government to do everything for them.” I’d like to say to you, respectfully, Ron, that I do live free, but with freedom comes responsibility. I don’t want the government to do everything for me. I work hard to make sure our government does what it is supposed to.
I do this by spending my fare share of free-time getting involved as a citizen. We live in a republic, where each citizen has a responsibility to inform themselves as best they can (without opportunists like Stefan causing information-chaos just to gain readers or make deadlines). Once we are informed, we need to find smart, hard-working, strong-valued, people with good (not perfect) track records, to do the jobs we don’t have time to do.
My point is that Stefan’s misrepresentations will not help the public discourse. If the Critical Areas Ordinance needs tweaking, we really should get together and tweak it. Sincerely.
DAVE SEGAL: Thanks for the great article about U.S.E. [“Band of The Rising Sun,” April 14.] Those kids are blessed! I’m [dancer] Carly’s mom. I wished I could have been there and your story made me feel like I was. So Thanks again.
EDITOR: the stranger occasionally brings up orpheum’s death [Shop Right, April 14] and invariably implicates the former employees. i hate it. we didn’t choose to quit stocking vinyl. we didn’t refuse an offer to design a website for free, saying that it was “a community store” and therefore needed no web presence. we didn’t ignore people who offered to do instore performances. we didn’t fire people who had been employees for over a decade. we didn’t discourage employees’ attempts to do free promotion on their own, outside of work. and the vast majority of us didn’t provide poor customer service either. i’m still good friends with people i met while working.
orpheum employees were musicians, djs, writers, artists, radio show hosts, and event promoters. our “customer service” extends well beyond the store’s walls. just because we were not able to singlehandedly stop broadway’s economic decline and/or the poor decisions of the store’s owner doesn’t mean we didn’t give a shit.
AT LEAST THEY’RE NOT S.F. REPUBLICANS
STRANGER: George Bush is the PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES. Ted Kennedy is a drunk. Michael Moore has not been heard from since November. Hollywood lefties have also shut their mouths finally. America has spoken, and the left is looking around for their ass. Which they lost. Ha ha ha.
Republican in San Francisco
EROTIC ART IS GOOD
DEAR EDITOR: Thank you so much for your in-depth coverage and great article about the Seattle Erotic Arts Festival [“Hot Town,” Ross Lambert, April 14]. I went and absolutely fell in love with an amazing piece of art, which is now quite happy in my home. Your consistent support of “alternative” communities in town does us all a great service. Thanks.
FASHION IS GOOD
EDITOR: I am not a regular Stranger reader. But I was fortunate enough to pick up the issue with the Worn Out special section [April 7]. LOVED IT. Particularly loved the piece covering the aesthetician—which had me laughing out loud and even snorting (!)—on the BUS while people wondered what was going on and I didn’t even care. Bravo!
‘THE CORPORATION’ GOT A BAD RAP
EDITOR: I am an avid reader and have been for several years. Since I moved to Canada two years ago I’ve been reading your paper online and have always felt your coverage is fair and concise. I am hoping you will address the issues brought up in the documentary The Corporation, directed by Jennifer Abbott and Mark Achbar. This movie is available to rent so it has been around for sometime apparently, though it’s new to me. Immediately after viewing I jumped online to confirm The Stranger’s stance on this subject. I was a little dissapointed. Though I respect Andy Spletzer’s opinion [On Screen, June 17, 2004] and understand where it comes from I felt there is so much more to be covered. He did also make it sound like Michael Moore had more involvement in the making of the movie then was my impression. You have many readers who are going to stumble across a rental and would be interested in an extensive report. I don’t think the movie’s intention was to make consumers feel stupid but to educate and enlighten and hopefully empower. I would love to read more from The Stranger regarding this issue. Thank you for your time.
THE DOUCHEBAG THAT GOT AWAY
DEAR STRANGER: I’m an intelligent person. I have made money over the years as a Writer, Actor, Stand-up comedian, etc. I know you didn’t know you needed me to write for your magazine. The news will probably come as something of a surprise, but you needed me to write for you.
I was sitting here in my simple living space in the underappreciated University District thinking about ways I could generate just a little bit more income in order to avoid the crushing financial sink-hole that lurks just around the corner. “I’ll write for the Stranger,” I finally said. I mean, how hard can it be? I’ve been published. The Stranger is just a hack rag full of smug sarcasm and escort ads.
I knew I wouldn’t make much money writing for you. I figured I’d peruse your magazine one day, and come up with a brilliant unsolicited idea or two, write them down, send them off, and get the two or three dollars you’d pay me when you were appropriately blown away by my genius.
There was just one problem; as I flipped through the Stranger page by page, the dissapointing truth began to sink in...I just don’t give a rat’s ass about your smug little waste of paper magazine.
For years I’ve lived in Seattle, The Stranger always present, just inside the door of bookstores and restaurants, sitting invitingly in it’s free newstand box at bus stops. Occasionally I’ll grab one, lazily flip through it, stop at the movie listings, the music-venue ads, and speed-read through my horoscope (always forgetting it seconds after reading it). Friends of mine who swear they love the Stranger are really just interested in the “Drunk of the Week” side bar, flipping directly to the two-inch column buried in the music section, before throwing the magazine aside like a used up girl friend.
City Hall? Local Politics? Are you serious? I don’t care about local politics! How can you even bring yourself to care about that enough to dedicate whole articles to it?
your magazine is a pointless excercise in capitalist “Alternative-niche”, marketing, masquerading as a ground-breaking cultural road map. YOU EVEN HAVE AN AD FOR AN ABC-FAMILY CHANNEL ORIGINAL MOVIE! Talk about underminig your own credibility!
Sorry. You may not have known you needed me to write for you, but now it’s over anyway. I can’t do it. I just can’t bring myself to care about your pathetic unreadable spilling of smugness and self indulgence. Sorry, man.
I THINK I SPEAK FOR EVERYONE WHEN I SAY “GROSS!”
ARI SPOOL: I’m a Party-Goer, and you are The Stranger’s Party Crasher. You came to our party. You know the one -- on Capitol Hill and everyone was dressed as cops and doctors. I know you remember because it was the best party you’ve ever been to. That’s probably because nobody would invite your sorry ass to anything worthwhile. You walked through the kitchen, asked our friend if she was pregnant and walked on -- probably to get some free booze. Not only is our friend not pregnant, she’s not even fat. You’re such a piece of shit, you should be called The Stranger’s Party Pooper. You’re probably just mad because no one -- man, woman or child -- at our party wanted to get up in your stinky cunt because it looked to much like your face.
JUST SAY ZAHAVA
EDITOR: I am sending this correspondence with regard to a very exciting new business in the Pacific Northwest. This is a business that will open doors of opportunity for the region. I am manager and promoter of Zahava and Zahava’s School of Make Up Artistry. Zahava is a nationally known make up artist and author of the book “Talent Hunt” and owner and creator of Just Say Talent. Zahava has over twenty years of experience in the field of fashion, modeling and make up artistry. She has worked for numerous modeling schools and modeling agencies, has done image consulting for major dept. stores and worked with a variety of entertainers. She has done cosmetic consulting for black and white and color photo sessions as well as hundreds of specialized cosmetic applications. She is an expert working with corrective cosmetics and has assisted women nation wide who have suffered from cancer, lupus and minor to severe skin imperfections. Zahava has also served as a consultant to runway shows, modeling competitions and fashion shows as well. Zahava has a long list of credits to her name but to name a few: New Women Magazine, Gloria Vanderbuilt [sic], The Kim Brooke Modeling and Talent Agency, Academy III Model and Talent Agency, Revlon, Ultima II, Max Factor, Baby Model of America, Northwest Photography Show, Radio Spokesperson for Nurti-System [sic], Seattle Plus Size Modeling Seminar, Author of Talent Hunt, Owner of Just Say Talent.
As her agent I am ecstatic about the opening of Zahava’s School of Make Up Artistry. This is the only school of its kind in the Pacific Northwest and is “state of the art” when it comes to the wide range of cosmetic applications that will be taught. The opening of the school will have a tremendous impact with the men and women in our community and within the Pacific Northwest. Knowing her and her very animated, comedic and yet very affectionate personality, the experience, knowledge and passion she holds in her field I know she and her new school would be fascinating for your viewers. The demand for professionally trained make up artists locally, nationally and internationally is overwhelming. The need is huge from the typical avenues of the industry such as Department Stores and the arts industry to photographers whether they be high fashion, bridal or family portraits to plastic surgeons, burn centers, dental cosmetic surgeons and the list just goes on and on. The school will have their Grand Opening to the public on April 30th from 1:30 – 3:30. The public can have the opportunity to view the school, meet with Zahava herself, partake in hourly prize give a ways and enjoy complimentary refreshments. I look forward to hearing from you in the near future and feel confident that Zahava and her professional background will be excellent subject material for your program. Sincerely.
SPEAKING OF INSCRUTABLE…
EDITOR: then do you get it and it’s so far out of whack from what pther people understand you wonder who got what? because builders and developers in the northwest think they’re the smart man on top since when has greed become brains you glass eyed fucks playing politics like parlour pimps in panties spanking the old earth like she’s your last bitch in heaven oooh... see she bleeds for you your soul is leather you withered drips oh yeah but jobs and money you mean that shit you pay your egyptians to build your monuments you never feed your mouths enough but it’s america they can pretend for payments the dream that is carefully crafted from the blood of the irish you’re fucking welcome you limp titted gits
SMART, NOT PRETENTIOUS
DEAR CHRISTOPHER FRIZZELLE: I just wanted to let you know that I stumbled upon your review of the new Safran Foer novel and think your analysis was right on. Not that you need to be validated or anything, but I also read Updike’s review in The New Yorker and think he kind of missed the point. It seems in the literary world (and the music world, to a lesser extent) anything remotely artistic or idealistic is automatically written off as “pretentious,” and while there certainly is plenty of that, I also felt like Safran Foer’s unorthodox techniques had an underlying point to them and weren’t just plopped there for no reason as both of the reviewers you quoted seemed to hint at.
E-MAIL CHAIN OF THE WEEK
[RE: “Everything is Obliterated,” Christopher Frizzelle, April 14]
EDITOR: Christopher Frizelle is wrong. Not in a fundamentally crooked, depressing sort of way. But just in a generally lighthearted, exchange-a-Guiness and talke about it kind of way. Beginning from the fact that he calls John Updike too old to review fiction, but then calls Foer’s work “modernist”... Modernist died its final death a little more than halfway through this century, depending on whom you ask. We’ve been POST-modern for a long, long time. Longer, I’m sure, than either Christopher Frizelle or I have been alive. Perhaps Frizelle is too old to review this work. Maybe the review should be written by a child born the day of Foer’s publication. It’s an almost laughably trite opinion that one has to be young to undestand young literature. As aimless and pointless as the idea that one has to be a nebbishy Jew to understand Woody Allen films. But then again, facing opinions which you don’t like, the easiest thing to do is castigate the critic with some unfortunate label. Too old, or too pretentious - uses a specific word too much, or is unable to get the ‘zeigtgeist’ of the times.
Frizelle’s review of Foer’s work has the same sort of scattered, less-than-rigorous feel about it that Foer’s work itself does. It relies on gimmick and cliché to make it from sunup to sunset, lacking the essential, undefinable element that would give it true depth. Foer’s work has basically split the American reviewing public into two factions. The first are the deeply submerged experts - weaned on technique and eminently cogent in their field. The ponderous and epic intellectuals who have spent a lifetime sifting and judging, searching for the grail of language. John Updike, for instance. These people don’t like Foer. And for good reason. Foer is a trite figurehead of relatively lousy novelwriting, the new American literary dolly, set apart and cherished as a mascot. Every year there is a new one. Beloved by millions of housewives, beloved by Oprah. Remember Michael Chabon? No? Well, it’s to be expected. Last year’s dolly hasn’t got NEARLY the gimmicky power of this year’s. Sure, both referenced Jews and the Holocaust, youthful spirit and the individual mythmaking power of America, but the new toy has pictures, and a flipbook! And children can be expected to forget about their old toys. And these, coincidentally, are the second type of critics. The ones who like Foer’s work. The ones who can be expected to gloss over the endless awkward sentences, the endless eigth-grade oracular outbursts, the endlessly, apocalyptically cloying sentiment that clogs the sinuses and anuses of every character stuffed into the bursting sausage-skin of this awful book.
It isn’t that Foer uses gimmicks, or that he uses them shamelessly. Everyone uses gimmicks. Art itself is a gimmick. But Foer makes the one mistake that no artist can make. His gimmicks are un-pretty. Not ugly. Un-pretty. Used without style, inflicted without grace. Where the linguisic scalpel would make us chuckle, Foer has used the croquet mallet. And where the sword would aptly pierce, Foer has swung the bloated carcass of a dead dog. His sentiment is overblown, overwrought, overcreated, overconstituted, overfed... Substituting enthusiasm for skill, it becomes the fat Falstaff of emotional writing. It is as if his writing were a tremendous African warrior, standing wreathed in golden blackness against the setting sun, perched on a single leg, clutching a ceremonial spear while Elephants trumpet in the distance. As if the entire world of emotion were compressed into a business card that one could clutch in a sweaty hand, flashing it endlessly and constantly at passers-by for validation. Ridiculous, eh?
The most important thing one could say about Foer’s work is that this year, it has brought out into the open the difference between a great critic, and a passable critic. It has, quite frankly, raised the bar. Christopher Frizelle has talent and skill. His observations are pointed and generally accurate. I would enjoy watching him get better at what he does. And I think John Updike would feel the same.
CHRISTOPHER FRIZZELLE RESPONDS:
hey Jeremy, I use “modernist” in the literary sense, not in the time-period sense or the furniture sense or whatever. Your assertion “We’ve been POST-modern for a long, long time” is weird for several reasons, but mainly, who’s we? All people? All books? There are all kinds of books. This book can be described a number of ways, postmodernist among them, but “postmodernist” is just a subset of “modernist” and actually “postmodernist” has proven itself kind of a useless distinction whereas “modernist” continues to be a useful distinction -- “modernist” as the opposite of “realist.” The individual. The act of being. Etc. Blah blah blah.
As for whether it’s a novel of gimmicks or a novel full of strategies that work, well, that’s a judgment call, and we disagree. Anyway, it’s great to get your thoughts, if not your condescension. cheers,
THE CRAVEN RESPONSE
From: Jeremy Meisano-Crookston
To: Christopher Frizzelle
Oh, I’m sorry. You received the original version of this article. I didn’t think that one got through. I thought it got bounced, and re-wrote it. As it was, as you pointed out, totally condescending. The second version is less condescending.
Please, please read the second, much BETTER, much less condescending letter that I sent. It’s the same letter, but without much of the retarded language. I didn’t have any malice towards the review to begin with, so I can’t genuinely apologize, but I am sorry if I offended. Do you then get accused of condenscension? You’ve written unfavourably about things before, with few qualms about it. How do you manage criticism without condescension?
Disagreement on theory is par for the course, and yes, modernist versus realist is an important distinction... But post-modernist is also modernist. The one doesn’t really supplant the other. Post-modernist as Derrida et al. elucidate isn’t really a systematized ‘thing’, but is simply regarded as a bunch of strategies with which the text is dealt with. Foer’s work is Post-Modern in the sense that it recognizes certain essential destabilizations, shifts of perspective, leaps outside of character and scene that someone like... I dunno... Let’s say Melville, wouldn’t have been able to.
There aren’t a lot of things that make something “definitely” post-modern, or “definitely” modern, as distinctions aren’t really adhered to by Deconstruction. Derrida himself admitted that Post-modernism would be its own final victim, leaving very little of a solid nature behind... It came, it destabilized structuralist theory and now its fading into the background. It’s been merged with the hyper-psychologized novel these days, I suppose. As for what separates a gimmick from a strategy... Well, that’s tough too. But part of it might be the talent and subtlety with which you get a reader to follow you without understanding that he’s following you.
Foer doesn’t really do that. He just kind of clubs you, over and over. And in a way that’s vaguely distasteful. That’s it. It’s distasteful. It’s sort of like how a really bad movie will always feature a character dying of cancer for no other reason than to pull the “death cord”, and force us to sympathize. Foer’s work just seems an awful lot like that. And you have to admit, there are an AWFUL lot of really, really terrible, Dawson’s Creek-style sentences peppered through the work.
THE RADICAL REVISION (Or, Why didn’t you say you were from Canada in the first place?)
EDITOR: Christopher Frizelle is wrong. Not in a fundamentally crooked, unhappy sort of way. But just in a generally lighthearted, exchange-a-Guiness and talk about it at the pub kind of way. Beginning from the fact that he calls John Updike too old to review fiction, but then calls Foer’s work “modernist”... Modernist died its final death a little more than halfway through this century, depending on whom you ask. We’ve been POST-modern for a long, long time. Longer, I’m sure, than either Christopher Frizelle or I have been alive. Oddly enough, Updike is one of the few authors old enough to really grasp the swing of the post-modern era that resulted in works like Foer’s being possible. It’s an almost laughably dated and quaint opinion that one has to be young to undestand young literature. As aimless and pointless as the idea that one has to be a nebbishy Jew to understand Woody Allen films. Why not say that perhaps Frizelle himself is too old to review this work? Maybe the review should be written by a child born the day of Foer’s publication. Or even more fittingly, a precocious 9-year old? Perhaps only Foer can review Foer’s work. In which case, we should expect a mountain of praise any day now.
Fittingly enough, Frizelle’s review of Foer’s work has the same sort of scattered, less-than-rigorous feel about it that Foer’s work itself does. It relies on gimmick and cliché to make it from sunup to sunset, lacking the essential, undefinable element that would give it true depth. Foer’s work has basically split the American reviewing public into two factions. The first are the deeply submerged experts - weaned on technique and powerful in their field. The ponderous and epic intellectuals who have spent a lifetime sifting and judging, searching for the grail of language. John Updike, for instance. These people don’t like Foer. And for good reason. Foer is a trite figurehead of relatively mediocre novelwriting, the new American literary dolly, set apart and cherished as a mascot. Every year there is a new one. Beloved by millions of housewives, beloved by Oprah. Remember Michael Chabon? No? Well, it’s to be expected, because no one else does either. Kavalier and who? What? Last year’s dolly hasn’t got NEARLY the gimmicky power of this year’s. Sure, both referenced Jews and the Holocaust, youthful spirit and the individual mythmaking power of America, but the new toy has pictures, and a flipbook! And children can be expected to forget about their old toys. These, coincidentally, are the second type of critics. The ones who like Foer’s work. The youthfully energetic ones who can be expected to gloss over the endless awkward sentences and endless sixth-grade oracular outbursts, the endlessly cloying sentiment that clogs the sinuses and anuses of every character stuffed into the bursting sausage-skin of this awful book; and reach for the soft, tootsie-roll center of “enlightenment” that rests at the core of Foer’s transcendent, Buddha-like spirit (note: sarcasm here). They can be forgiven, because part of what makes a youthful critic is the desire to reach and embrace the literature of your times - to be a part of the great construction of your cultural world. I’ve liked bad books in my time, because they spoke to me. But I should and was held to task for my liking bad books. And I expect to be again, in the future.
It isn’t that Foer uses gimmicks, or that he uses them shamelessly. Everyone uses gimmicks. Art itself is a gimmick. But Foer makes the one mistake that no artist can make. His gimmicks are un-pretty. Not ugly - ugliness is its own aesthetic. Un-pretty. Used without style, inflicted without grace. Where the linguisic scalpel would make us chuckle, Foer has used the croquet mallet. And where the sword would aptly pierce, Foer swings the bloated carcass of a dead dog. His sentiment is overblown, overwrought, overcreated, overconstituted, overfed... Substituting enthusiasm for skill, it becomes the fat Falstaff of emotional writing. It is as if his writing were a tremendous African warrior, standing wreathed in golden blackness against the setting sun, perched on a single leg, clutching a ceremonial spear while Elephants trumpet in the distance. As if the entire world of emotion were compressed into a business card that one could clutch in a sweaty hand, flashing it endlessly and constantly at passers-by for validation. Ridiculous, eh?
The most important thing one could say about Foer’s work is that this year, it has brought out into the open the difference between good readers, and merely passable readers. Good readers accept a work in its entirety, swallow it whole and then judge. Passable readers try hard to find the merit in a work, and thereby judge it unfairly. It has, quite frankly, raised the bar. Christopher Frizelle has talent and skill. His observations are pointed and accurate. I enjoy his reviews, and respect his writing very much, and I was genuinely surprised to hear that he liked this book. And I think John Updike would feel the same. I have a feeling that when Christopher Frizelle sits down five or six months from now, and absent-mindedly picks up Foer’s book for the second time, two things will happen. One: He won’t remember a thing about it. And two: He will feel deeply, deeply cheated by it.