Monday, February 12, 2007

This is off my usual beat, but I wanted to point out that Lee Siegel -- last seen accusing liberal bloggers of "blogofascism" before being dumped as a New Republic blogger for posing as a fan of himself (and yes, there were some other ugly moments in there) -- has just had his head handed to him by readers of The New York Times Book Review:

I was relieved to learn from Dwight Garner's column, TBR: Inside the List, that the Book Review actually has an active and engaged editorial staff, but I wonder where they were when Lee Siegel's review of Norman Mailer's "Castle in the Forest" (Jan. 21) came thudding through the door. Perhaps, understandably, they nodded off while reading the thing.

...Siegel's essay ... is academic, turgid, dense, painful and impenetrable. Siegel writes like an economist or, worse, like a lit-crit professor at one of our leading liberal arts colleges. His review could have been improved immensely by the generous application of a blue pencil and a sharp pair of scissors.

Nicholas P. Moros
Evergreen, Colo.


To the Editor:

When, in his windy review, Lee Siegel eventually addresses "The Castle in the Forest," he assures us that Mailer has no sympathy for his devil-narrator, Dieter. But since that narrator is the only voice we hear in the novel and is responsible for whatever wit it contains, how can this possibly be true?

William H. Pritchard
Amherst, Mass.

To the Editor:

Lee Siegel's essay on Norman Mailer's "Castle in the Forest" is the most addlepated review I have ever read. It is a naked display of idiocy, a crowning achievement of impenetrable nonsense.

Marcella Jenkins
Danbury, Conn.

Oh, don't hold back, Ms. Jenkins. Tell us how you really feel.

Impenetrable? Addlepated? Here, try it -- try getting through all 6,299 words of it. It's a self-indulgent disaster that sometimes reads like the most fawningly vapid rock journalism --

This restless vastness of Mailer's ambition (''In motion a man has a chance'') is such that his ''failures'' are seminal, his professional setbacks groundbreaking. His willingness to fail -- hugely, magnificently, life-affirmingly -- expands artistic possibilities.

-- and occasionally reads as if Siegel took the brown acid:

To not cohere to received axes of fact -- magical phrase! -- to approach life novelistically, is to make connections between the visible and the invisible world, and to transfigure the commonplace.

Far out, maaaaaan.... (When Siegel does finally get around to talking about the Mailer novel, he calls it an "utterly strange work of naked, wild empathy" -- the sort of praise you expect to find on a used paperback with 35-year-old pot seeds still stuck under the inside cover.)

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