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November 20, 2004

An Intervention Would Not Be Unwelcome

by Ron Hogan

Just two weeks ago, I was lamenting what NYTBR has done to Liesl Schillinger's writing by using her to attack easy targets like Susan Isaacs and Ann Coulter. It's gotten worse. This weekend, they sic her on Gloria Vanderbilt, and maybe it's just because Schillinger's bored out of her skull, but she's not even funny anymore, barely finding it in herself to do more than summarize the banalities her editors have forced upon her.

Those NYTBR-bashers who are just waiting to pounce upon Sam Tanenhaus for not including any fiction in the poetry issue while finding space to review non-poetry-driven nonfiction will undoubtedly use this as the perfect example; even by the "news of the culture" standard, it's hard to imagine why we're still being asked to pay attention to Gloria Vanderbilt, for crying out loud. Me, I'm more concerned with the more immediate effects on Liesl Schillinger's prose--it's one arguably justifiable thing to deploy her on bestselling icons of mass culture, but wasting her on irrelevancies is just plain wrong, and here's hoping future NYTBR assignments make much, much better use of her talents.

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