New Disclaimer from Deborah Solomon

The Deborah Solomon interview, recently revealed to be more of an inept collage experiment in which the interviewer is a humorless and badgering solipsist rather than anything close to a respectable journalist, now carry this bold shibboleth:

“Interview conducted, condensed and edited by Deborah Solomon.”

And if that isn’t enough, Solomon, who appears not to be a fan of the Oxford comma, will also begin adopting the bold moniker “sprezzatura” to stave off any additional criticism that comes from the New York Press or the blogosphere.

Rest easy, America! The Times has rectified the Solomon disgrace with one single sentence! Clearly, standards have been corrected and we can count upon the Times to treat this middle-aged white woman with the same hard circumspection that was once meted out to a twentysomething African-American named Jayson Blair, who did more or less the same thing. Alas, Blair was shown the door before he could get in a recurrent disclaimer. A double standard? Well, they don’t call the Times the Gray Lady for nothing.

Deborah Solomon, Racist

That inarticulate imbecile is at it again. Deborah Solomon apparently didn’t get the news that graphic novels have been around for some time — possibly, since the 1920s — and is racist enough to assume that Marjane Satrapi, by way of having brown skin and writing about fundamentalism, must be a Muslim. I guess all that supposed research that Solomon puts into these “questions” doesn’t involve basic fact checking.

Deborah Solomon Under Fire from Ombudsman

Clark Hoyt: “In fact, there is a protocol, and ‘Questions For’ isn’t living up to it. The Times’s Manual of Style and Usage says that readers have a right to assume that every word in quotation marks is what was actually said. ‘Questions For’ does not use quotations marks but is presented as a transcript. The manual also says ellipses should be used to signal omissions in transcripts, and that ‘The Times does not ‘clean up’ quotations….maybe ‘Questions For’ needs to be rethought.”

I should say so. Incidentally, Hoyt’s piece is in response to Matt Elzweig’s piece, which appeared a few weeks ago.

Deborah Solomon: Unethical Journalist?

A few weeks ago, I talked at length with Matt Elzweig over the phone for a New York Press story about Deborah Solomon. Elzweig had contacted me because I had written critically about her on these pages. Thankfully, Elzweig’s investigations sent him away from my pedantic barbs and into the heart of an interviewer who appears to be breaking the New York Times code of ethics. To add insult to injury, Solomon didn’t even bother to return Elzweig’s calls to clarify the charges.

Solomon & Foer Sitting in a Tree

“I’m not interesting,” Jonathan Safran Foer announced when I asked him to come out of his palatial home and breathe some oxygen. “People assume that because I’m a writer, I’m naturally interesting. They couldn’t be more wrong. I’m a sad piece of driftwood and the biggest disappointment since Steve Perry left Journey.”

Of course, I tried to cajole poor Foer with some of the trademark wit I used in my one-page Q&As. I asked Foer if he considered stabbing himself because of his youth and his wealth, pointing out the slam-dunk posterity advantages of an early Sylvia Plath-like literary death. I asked Foer if he ever thought about throwing himself in an oven just to see what life might have been like for his grandfather, had not the mystery woman saved him. Casual jokes to make Foer smile. But Foer was adamant about his cipher status.

“I just watched Behind the Music last night,” he said. “I spent all day in bed, trying to work myself up to write. In desperation, I turned on the tube. When I saw Daryl Hall reveal how hard it was for him to write ‘Maneater,’ how he too had spent years working up the courage to be a great artist. I…I wish I could offer you something a little more….” He stopped midsentence and stared at my decolletage.

“Manly?” I ventured.

“No, something fierce and more representative of the Caucasian race,” he said by way of desperation. “Something along the lines of Daryl Hall. Have you been dating?”

“No,” I said. “Most people are afraid to talk with me because I’m such a bitch.”

I looked at his wiry physique and I saw a beautiful 28 year old boy rather than a writer. I saw a few of my own neuroses in Foer and wondered how he might feel against me in bed. Would he read me Nabokov? Could I be his Humbert Humbert?

My friends had warned me of Fatal Attraction types, but there was something of the easy conquest represented in the 150 e-mail messages he sent me every hour. I did everything in my power to resist his attraction, even comparing him to Liberace. But I realized that I could not resist the man who had penned Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close.

Deborah Solomon: Under Pressure

Is Deborah Solomon trying to confess to us that she’s a closet meth addict? From today’s interview with Christine Gregoire:

As a veteran politician who has served as state attorney general for more than a decade, did you find it difficult to sit out the seven weeks during which the voting machines pegged you a loser?

It was very, very difficult.

Did you take up smoking?

Me, take up smoking? No. It’s not an option. I was the lead negotiator in the tobacco-company settlement that brought in $242 billion, the largest settlement in the history of the world.

Did you turn to sleeping pills?

I finally resorted to once in a while taking some Sominex. But at the end, the Sominex didn’t work.

So what did you do to ease your anxiety in the wee hours of the night?

I did all of my shopping for Christmas online at very odd hours.

Yes, heaven forbid that things like non-drug related activities like sex, exercise or shopping can be used to relieve considerable tension. Particularly since almost every gubernatorial candidate is, in the Deborah Solomon universe, a pill-popping, chain-smoking freakazoid ready to walk the plank right before through a career-making four-year term. That’s the way politics works. Right, kids?

Song of Solomon

It’s official. Deborah Solomon now rivals Rex Reed as the least distinguished interviewer of the past forty years and comes perilously close to Ann Coulter as the most deliberately hateful writer working today. One is tempted to unleash limitless fury against such a bilious interlocutor. But that would only involve resorting to her level.

Nevertheless, Solomon’s interview with Christine Schutt sets a new low for the Times. It smacks of an anti-intellectual hubris that, at the risk of invoking Godwin, one might associate with the 1933 Opernplatz incident, whereby brownshirts tossed “un-German” books (in Solomon’s case, books that aren’t published by a mainstream press) into a raging conflagration of pure destruction. The actual quality of Schutt’s work isn’t discussed. But the publishing circumstances and Schutt’s lifestyle choices are. It is a complete disgrace that such a fixation would be encouraged, let alone published, in a major newspaper. It suggests that the New York Times (possibly in collusion with Tanenhaus’ diminishing returns on the literary fiction front) has openly declared a war on literary culture. And, as such, it has no substantive value to any serious newspaper reader.

Not only does Solomon compare literary excellence with a washing machine, but, in inveighing against Schutt for the formulation of a story idea, she is utterly incapable (perhaps deliberately so) of comprehending how art originates, let alone understanding the distinction between art and reality. This lack of comprehension is interesting, given Solomon’s roots as an art critic for the Wall Street Journal. But even then, Solomon was hungrier than a gravid wolf. She was fired by Raymond Sokolov because she insisted on writing for several other publications on the WSJ‘s dime. But that didn’t stop her from tossing soda onto Sokolov’s lap.

Solomon has a long history of failing to get the job done. In 2001, Solomon attacked the Milwaukee Art Museum without bothering to visit the museum or its collections. And, as Charlie Finch has suggested, Utopia Parkway, Solomon’s biography of Joseph Cornell, is the rare case in which the author clearly despises her subject.

So what do you do when you’re a jaded biographer dissatisfied with your work? You lash out at your subjects. Instead of confronting a major politician about the history of his remarks, you ask him about his hair. You ask one of the greatest figures in rock and roll history if he’s dying. You take the easy route and go after the easy targets.

What does Solomon’s continued employment (and corresponding attack dog tactics) prove? It suggests that the Times is more interested in catering to devout readers of People or Maxim than actually probing its subjects. It communicates to its loyal readership that they are dumb, dumb, dumb, and that the Grey Lady (ridiculously enough) is oh so cool. It perpetuates a sad chronicle of a major newspaper that consistently undervalues literature.

And in adopting and reinforcing this stance, the Times has demonstrated that it is no different from the half-literate country bumpkins.

Questions for Plum Sykes

plumsykes.jpgYour new novel, “Bergdorf Blondes,” have created some disgraceful and unintentionally hilarious Q&A sessions which demonstrate that you are a Tina Brown in the making.

I have a new disease, which I’ve called glitteratitis. I want Bret Easton Ellis to use me as an object in his next novel, preferably as a footstool.

As a writer for Vogue, you have ideas, right?

I’m too beautiful to be concerned about the human condition.

You’ve used “blonde” as a verb and every time you open your mouth, people have been actually lost brain cells listening to you.

You’ve got to keep the English language fun. Have you ever known an English teacher aware of this season’s fashion designs? I haven’t. Perhaps if these teachers paid attention to the way they dressed, English classes wouldn’t be so square.

How can you justify writing a book about these kinds of women with all that is going on the world?

After 9/11, I finally had the excuse I needed to open up my secret stash of candy. And I thought to myself that Jonathan Franzen needed to write a history of candy rather than these long novels about human behavior. He made my head hurt. Who really wants to pay attention to that sort of thing? This age is about comfort and self-entitlement. If you look at this lady with the cigarette in her mouth, she’s simply not in fashion. And besides, we have cheerier photos at Vogue.

What did you study at Oxford?

I wrote my thesis on the frizzy hair movement of the 1970s, drawing particular attention to the Farrah Fawcett feathering movement. It was well received.

P.T. Barnum once said, “Never underestimate the stupidity of the American public.” Would you say that you could apply this to being born in London?

How brilliant. Can you pick up lunch?