A Liar's Palette

Patty Marx and Daniel Menaker

A Liar's Palette

Patty Marx and Daniel Menaker

A Liar's Palette
An email conversation about the news of the day.
May 12 1999 2:24 PM

Patty Marx and Daniel Menaker


Dear Dan,


No. Don't feel guilty about using me. I told you: I like to be used. Besides, we don't have time for guilt. It takes three days and we only have tomorrow. Let's stick to lying.

When I said I never lie, I lied. Of course, I tell white lies; and everyone should. I tell gray lies, too. And taupe. But I actually have more of a problem with truth-telling. I am too often willing to be indiscreet about Person A in order to ingratiate myself with Person B. Uh, oh. Now Person A will never tell me anything. (Note to Person A: When it truly matters, I can keep a secret.) Also, I will say anything for a laugh.

As for the Chinese Embassy: First of all, it wasn't my fault. It is, however, just the kind of mistake I might make and for that reason, I am very glad I didn't decide to enter the CIA. (Don't you think they should recruit phone solicitors into the CIA and have them check out the addresses of places we intend to bomb?) You mention Clinton's unwillingness and inability to apologize for the bombing. While not defending Clinton (I have done plenty of that), I will point out a flaw in the language. When you say "I'm sorry" it implies you did it. That is why I used to be queasy about condolence notes. I take it back. Clinton was responsible. Which is good because it absolves me. (My friend Sandy Frazier's father said he liked World War II because it wasn't his fault.)

More on bombing. I submit to you a quiz that was sent to me today, followed by a squib also sent to me today: This test consists of one (1) multiple-choice question (so you better get it right!). Here's a list of the countries that the United States has bombed since the end of World War II, compiled by historian William Blum:


  • China 1945-46
  • Korea 1950-53
  • China 1950-53
  • Guatemala 1954
  • Indonesia 1958
  • Cuba 1959-60
  • Guatemala 1960
  • Congo 1964
  • Peru 1965
  • Laos 1964-73
  • Vietnam 1961-73
  • Cambodia 1969-70
  • Guatemala 1967-69
  • Grenada 1983
  • Libya 1986
  • El Salvador 1980s
  • Nicaragua 1980s
  • Panama 1989
  • Iraq 1991-99
  • Sudan 1998
  • Afghanistan 1998
  • Yugoslavia 1999

In how many of these instances did a democratic government, respectful of human rights, occur as a direct result? Choose one of the following:

  1. 0
  2. zero
  3. none
  4. not a one
  5. zip
  6. a whole number between -1 and +1
  7. zilch


Goran Matic, a minister in the Yugoslav government, said Monday that what NATO calls refugees are in fact actors. He told reporters that 3,000 to 4,000 ethnic Albanians were paid $5.50 each to play the part of refugees. He said they've been marching in a huge circle from country to country to give the impression that vast numbers of people are on the move. He called it a "big production" that would do credit to Hollywood.

This is approximately what Slate is paying us, and we don't even have to march!

In all honesty,

P.S.: You should read Philip Weiss' article in this week's New York Observer about Jeff Sonnenfeld. It is an important story told in a riveting way. I am not just saying this because both Phil and Jeff are good friends of mine. P.P.S.: I'd like to plug your book again: The Treatment. A funny and fascinating novel.

P.P.P.S.: Next time I see you, I'll give you some envelopes with good glue.

P.P.P.P.S.: Check out Page 22 of the May 17 People ("Suddenly Rich" on cover) and tell me what you think Carolyn Bessette is wearing around her neck.

P.P.P.P.P.S.: I know, I know. I don't subscribe either.

P.P.P.P.P.P.S.: Don't you like P.S.'s better than the letter?

Daniel Menaker is a senior literary editor at Random House and author of The Treatment (click here to buy the book) and two collections of short stories. Patty Marx writes comedy for movies, television, and print. Her most recent books are Meet My Staff (click here to buy the book), a children's book illustrated by Roz Chast, and The Skinny (click here to buy the book) written with Susan Sistrom.