Timothy Noah and Marjorie Williams

Let's Be Friends
An email conversation about the news of the day.
July 21 1998 6:02 PM

Timothy Noah and Marjorie Williams

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Dear Marjorie,

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Jeez, you're as grumpy this afternoon as I was this morning! I'm sorry if I overdid it on the Bayley piece; rereading your message, I see that you weren't saying you hated the article, but rather, that you liked a lot of it but were also bothered by it. Still, my position is I'm not going to read a story like that unless you love it. It's my way of whistling past the graveyard.

I really did think "Alzheimer's-addled" was a neutral phrase, and I thought my annoyance at Murdoch's and Reagan's being exploited made clear my intent was kindness.

Let's start with a clean slate, eh? I'm finding out about all sorts of people who've never read Ulysses. One is our friend Connie Casey, a very brainy newspaper writer who is married to a certified genius, Harold Varmus, the Nobel-prizewinning big cheese at the National Institutes of Health. (Harold, Connie reports, has read Ulysses, and can recite its first two paragraphs by heart.)

Jodie Allen, Slate's Washington editor, tells me she polled the Slate Washington office and found that only one of its employees, Seth Stevenson, has read Ulysses in its entirety. Kate Galbraith, she says, "sampled enough of it to write a paper for an English class in college." Hmmm.

We still don't have any big bombshells, though. I want to hear that Harold Bloom hasn't read Ulysses, or Leon Wieseltier, or Hugh Kenner. Or at the very least some professor of comparative lit at a big-time university. Don't be shy! We're giving away a free book!

Your Proud Philistine,

Tim

Timothy Noah writes Slate's "Chatterbox" column. Marjorie Williams is a contributing editor at Vanity Fair.