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December 28, 2004

When Did NYTBR Hire Jerry Springer?

by Ron Hogan

Maybe you've noticed that the NYTBR letters pages have gotten a bit hostile in recent months, but this weekend's edition hit a new low, as Kay Redfield Jamison attacked Daphne Merkin, the reviewer of Jamison's latest book, as "an avowed masochist who has written exhaustively on the pleasures of pain and the miseries of her existence," then implied that the only reason Exuberance had been panned was that it had been assigned to "such a relentlessly joyless person."

Before you could look up from the page and say "Oh no she DID-int," Merkin hit back at "Jamison's insultingly reductionist characterization" and observes, "The fact that the author sees fit to defend her effort with a scurrilous attack on the reviewer is less in keeping with intellectual discussion than with the mud-throwing tactics of the playground. Perhaps she should aim her sights higher all around." My first reaction was "OUCH!" but then my second reaction was surprise that whoever's putting the letters section together actually hung Jamison's ass out to dry by publishing what Dear Abby would have clearly recognized as the kind of letter you write to get your feelings out then destroy immediately--even if Jamison was foolish enough to put it in the mail.

Was the review that bad? Judge for yourself. As for me, I was underwhelmed, but I merely found it unengagingly humdrum, not wildly inappropriate.

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