Saturday, January 3, 2009

Wolfe bites back

I didn't read Alex Ross's recent piece on Leonard Bernstein in The New Yorker, but this week's exchange in the magazine's letters-to-the-editor section -- between an irked Tom Wolfe and a placid Ross -- makes me want to. Even though Wolfe is being a bit of an ass, I kind of love him for writing something so self-consciously snarky, and though Ross's cool response isn't as satisfying (or long) as I imagine it could have been, this is definitely the funniest and most memorable back-and-forth to grace the magazine's letters page in some time. I found the last part of Wolfe's complaint particularly amusing (Ross's writing is what's in quotes):
“If, as William F. Buckley, Jr., said, Bernstein was parroting the lingo of fanatics, Wolfe was, in his own way, a mouthpiece, his fashionably tart prose advancing the new art of wedge-issue politics.” Let us avert our eyes from the rhetorical wreck on the highway and merely point out that Wolfe has never been anybody’s mouthpiece, and his interest in political journalism is nil. Four: “The entire episode reeks of hysteria.” Wrong word. There is a difference between hysteria and hysterically funny. Music Critic Ross was two at the time.

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