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Feb. 5 1999 3:30 AM

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Slate on Toilet Paper


Although I greatly enjoy David Plotz's dispatches, the Jan. 27 Dispatch "Among the Hyenas" may have given me a nit to pick where it quotes Sen. Ben Nighthorse Campbell. Perhaps this quote should have been offered without using the senator's name because the remark was apparently intended to be off the record. The senator was complaining about the very thing Plotz has now done: getting a sound bite from a senator relieving himself. If Plotz did not get the senator's permission to use the quote, an apology may be in order.

--John Purnell

San Francisco

Kill Kazan's Deathbed Oscar


In his otherwise useful and accurate analysis of the issues involving Elia Kazan's honorary Oscar, "Blacklist and Backstory," Jacob Weisberg perpetuates the myth that Hollywood has for decades been punishing Kazan by withholding laurels that would have been his had he not named names. "He deserves an Oscar as much as anyone living--for best director, not for best human being," writes Weisberg. But Kazan already has two Best Director Oscars, including one for On the Waterfront, the film in which he "made his case" for snitching, as Weisberg puts it. He was also nominated for three other Academy Awards and has won four Golden Globes, three New York Film Critics Circle Awards and two Directors Guild Awards.

Honorary (a k a "lifetime achievement" or "deathbed") Oscars are typically consolation prizes, given to people whose work was overlooked in its time--such as Cary Grant, Howard Hawks, Federico Fellini, and Stanley Donen, none of whom ever won a real Oscar. Kazan was a brilliant director, but he's already been saluted for that, so why give him a lifetime achievement statue and not, say, John Ford or David Lean? Apparently Hollywood really does want to acknowledge that Kazan did the right thing all those years ago. And as Weisberg makes clear, he did not.

--Daniel Radosh

New York


Scott Shuger Is Trippin'

Although I'm certain it amused Scott Shuger (an amusing guy, to judge by the terrific "Today's Papers") to join the ranks of those who have publicly disparaged Linda Tripp, the fact remains that nothing in his piece, " Linda Tripp's Payoff," reflects at all on Tripp herself.

I can't help but wonder if Shuger thought to ask himself a few simple questions before launching his attack-- questions such as, did Tripp ask to be moved to her current job? Was it her idea that she be placed on "leave" and sent home to "work"? Did Tripp have any input into the salary for her current position? If the job were held by someone other than Tripp, would it pay any less or involve any more work?

I suspect I know the answers to these questions, and I suspect Mr. Shuger does as well. In fact, the sole purpose of his piece was to continue the media assault on Tripp as some kind of back-stabbing dragon lady whom we should all view with disgust and loathing. Well done, Scott!


--Russ Evansen

Madison, Wis.

Gordonian Not

What a precious little world Mary Gordon inhabits. Her diary entries evoke images of little, high-rise dollhouses full of paranoid writers who rarely disagree about art and never disagree about politics.


 The goal to life in the Gordonian universe is to do good--or to do Clinton, provided one isn't too cowardly to snap one's thong. Clinton is good. He's a compassionate mattress thrasher. Ford Maddox Ford is good, if maddeningly redundant. He left his wife, and he's kind to Polish ingrates.

 Joseph Conrad is bad. He's a Polish ingrate. His wife is stupid, and his children are sickly. He was mean to Ford Maddox Ford, and women love Ford Maddox Ford. Mary loves Ford. She's on a first-name basis with him, although it's kind of hard to tell. But it doesn't matter. Ford is dead.

 The cute boys in high school didn't talk to Mary. But that doesn't matter, either. Mary's son is cute. He talks to her.

Republicans are bad. They're mean to Bill Clinton, which is a lot like being mean to Ford Maddox Ford. The Republicans might kill Bill Clinton; that's what the crazy old author says. He's crazy, but it still could happen. Could too!

Lying is bad, but not real bad. Envy and pride are the cold sins. They're real bad. It's better to lie and be nice than to tell the truth and be mean. Clinton is nice. Republicans are mean. You can't tell the truth and be nice at the same time. 

Mary wants to be good, but she doesn't know how. Should she write New York Times op-ed pieces about bad Republicans, or should she just write novels like Nabokov? Should she read Ford's The Good Soldier, or should she stop being a coward and salute Bill Clinton's good soldier? Maybe he'll lie to her.

Sometimes people expect too much from Mary. Sometimes she wishes they were dead. That's bad. It's bad to wish people were dead. Republicans wish Clinton were dead. The world is scary.

Now I understand. I love Mary's diary. It's good.

--Tim Ireland