DePaulo and Akst

DePaulo and Akst

An email conversation about the news of the day.
Oct. 5 1998 2:22 PM

DePaulo and Akst


A bleary good-morning to you, Lisa.


What a relief it is that you can only see my words and not my person; a man who has not slept in a year or more (I am the father of 16-month old twins) is not a pretty sight, but even my typing is starting to seem slurred with fatigue. A couple of weeks ago, in my first visit to the local college gym (it's an arty school, and the gym is always deserted), I got changed and emerged to hit the equipment only to discover that the door marked "Men's Locker Room" was right there in front of me, implying, of course, that I had been standing around naked in the women's locker room, where all my stuff was now securely locked. To men who have always wondered what it's like in there (aside from naked babes, of which there were none), I can report that it's absolutely indistinguishable, although it did seem strange that there were no urinals in the john. Title IX apparently allows some flexibility here.

Under my sleepless circumstances, the news seems just as surreal as everything else that passes across my field of vision. The New York Times offered a front page story about the New York Senate race between Sen. Alfonse D'Amato and Rep. Charles Schumer, noting that neither candidate was the extremist the other paints him to be (how could anyone be?) and then quoting the Rev. Al Sharpton for sensible perspective. I happen to live in Dutchess County, where a jury found that he and two other men defamed a former prosecutor by accusing him of raping a black teenager named Tawana Brawley several years ago. Then again, Sharpton did run for Senate in 1992, and I suppose these days he could point in the direction of a certain large structure near the Potomac and ask just who is ready to cast the first stone?

Given where I live, it was stranger still to read an eight-page supplement to the New York Times in which various celebrities attest to the importance of newspapers. Why do I get a sense that testimonials from Jon Bon Jovi, model Christy Turlington ("I've always felt that intellect is the most attractive thing about a person.") and Brandy (a singer, I think) are a sign that newspapers may be losing this particular war? Not that it's any wonder. Up here in rural New York State, the local dailies are so bad they refute the idea that newspapers are dying. No, it's clear that, actually, newspapers are killing themselves.

But I guess the most interesting things I spotted this morning were deep inside the New York Times, where one story described the furor over a play about the killer of Gandhi, which has been banned in India after just several performances. Can you imagine living someplace where theater matters this much? An even smaller item described how, in Bangladesh, police clashed with protestors advocating the death penalty for feminist author Taslima Nasreen. Can you believe this? It's appalling, of course, but the only way to get into that kind of trouble here, in my experience as a scribe, is to advocate cruelty to animals. But wait a minute--you think that could get me on Oprah?

Over and out...


Lisa DePaulo, a New York based writer, is a contributing editor at George magazine. Daniel Akst, a former business columnist for the Los Angeles Times, is the author of St. Burl's Obituary, a novel.