New Yorker Contributor Asserts Lockean Right to Write Recycled Claptrap

So Mollie Wilson took issue with John Colapinto’s article, “When I’m Sixty-Four,” a Paul McCartney profile riddled with the kind of spoon-fed, been-there-done-that tone of a bona-fide hack. Why, asked Wilson, would The New Yorker, one of the top magazines in the country, revisit the same tired legends? Any remotely educated culture vulture knows very well that “Yesterday” started off as “Scrambled Eggs.” Further, Colapinto idiotically suggests that some hard-core fan asking for an autograph “could have been another Mark David Chapman” and then has the temerity to put this social gaffe in his piece!

colapintotrue.gifBut the story gets even stranger. Colapinto began leaving comments on Wilson’s blog, including this morsel:

As for my re-telling of the often-told tale of “Yesterday” beginning with the nonsense lyrics about scrambled eggs: any true Beatles fan would know that the point of re-telling that story was that Paul has added vital new info–something of which he’d only lately been reminded: that the actual lyrics to Yesterday were written while on a 3 hour car trip from Lisbon to southern Portugal with Jane Asher.

I’m a true Beatles fan. And Colapinto is dead wrong. The information concerning Jane Asher has been floating around for some time. And while my Beatles books are currently still packed, I do know that this information has been reported since at least 2003. (e.g., see “McCartney’s Yesterday had a nudge from Nat” by Maurice Chittenden, The Times, July 6, 2003). In fact, the far more interesting question, which came up around the same time, is how close “Yesterday” is to Nat King Cole’s “Answer Me.” Then again, since Colapinto is less concerned about the musical origins of one of the most remembered pop music ballads of the past fifty years and more interested in who McCartney was fucking when he wrote “Yesterday,” one shouldn’t look to Colapinto for compelling arts criticism.

This is by Colapinto’s own admission:

You, instead, wanted an essay on the subject. And that’s why you’re a blogger and not a writer. And, if you can handle hearing this, it’s why you’re barely a reader. You should also understand that the New Yorker is divided into sections; there are feature stories, like the kind I write, and there is the critics, at the back; I do not and never will be a critic. I don’t like them. They’re usually up-their-ass on precisely the matters you and I have been discussing here.

So there you have it. A New Yorker writer, vastly uninformed about the origins of “Yesterday” and their ubiquitous availability to any Beatlemaniacs, isn’t interested in writing, much less reading the kind of in-depth music features that you and I might be interested in. This is arrogance of the first order. And I’m truly stunned that the New Yorker would be dumbing down their features by assigning them to clumsy thugs like Colapinto.

If a 5,000 word essay that goes out of its way to investigate in a way that nobody else has tackled the subject makes one a blogger and not a writer, then call me a blogger any day of the week. Even if my “blog post” is published in a newspaper or a magazine.


  1. I absolutely love (and I mean that most heterosexually) all of his parenthetical qualifiers explaining the kindness behind his biting remarks toward Mollie and everything he dreams she represents. It is such bold (meaning transparent and awful) and considerate writing. I could only dream of being affectionately called a hapless dumb-ass (absolutely no pun intended!).

  2. I read that article, and was saddened by McCartney’s lonliness. Now I’m even sadder, because Colapinto is an asshole.

  3. I didn’t like the McCartney essay, either. Someone once claimed that Luc Menand’s New Yorker essays leave the reader caring less about the topic than she did before. I feel that way about almost every essay in The New Yorker, lately. The Tintin essay was just as empty and pointless.

  4. Colapinto isn’t a critic, but he isn’t a very observant reporter, either. he’s not bad at writing down what McCartney tells him, and describing encounters with fans, but he failed to ask any interesting questions, and he certainly didn’t notice anything noteworthy while following his subject around. McCartney has been interviewed frequently for forty years. Colapinto never got past McCartney’s stock anecdotes and superficial chat, but he seems to think his dull piece is some kind of scoop. His snotty responses to criticism reveal him to be an insecure asshole.

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