Once again, Sam Tanenhaus demonstrates how little he cares about journalistic integrity by throwing a bone to Lee Siegel this week. You might remember Siegel as “sprezzatura,” a sock puppet alter ego he created to leave comments on his very own posts to defend against criticism of his New Republic blog. Why Siegel is so obsessed with masturbation in Norman Mailer’s The Castle in the Forest is anyone’s guess. Perhaps Siegel has had a lot of time off to consider this subject. But seeing as how Tanenhaus sets the bar so low, I wouldn’t be surprised if “sprezzatura” will show up in two weeks’ time in the Letters section.
However, there’s also another delightful appearance from Liesl, who somehow managed to slip in references to the White Stripes (and, alas, Coldplay), Medea, and Dostoevsky. Perhaps Levi is right. Tanenhaus must have been on vacation.
You have a problem with Siegel, obviously, but from where I stand as a long time reader of Mailer, his longish review of the author’s career is on point. Or points, to the extent that Siegel brings together Mailer’s themes, tropes and ideas from decades of writing novels, journalism, plays and criticism and is able to show how each of them fit into the structure of The Castle in the Forest. It was a fine and over due defense of Mailer which appeared, incidently, in the New York Times Book Review, not the NY Review of Books.