Policy made plain.
March 30 1997 3:30 AM

Special "Sleep With Your Daughter" Issue


By what we beg you to believe is a bizarre coincidence, this issue of Slate contains two articles that take a benign view of fathers sleeping with their daughters. (Depending on when you visit the site, one of these may already be in "The Compost." But it will still be available there.) To publish one article on this tawdry subject may be regarded as a slip-up; to publish two looks like an obsession. But sex between fathers and daughters is an unavoidable subject at the moment, because of Kathryn Harrison's memoir, The Kiss (Random House). Our senior contributor Ann Hulbert reviewed it last week, somewhat skeptically. This week, another regular Slate contributor, Luc Sante, comes to Harrison's defense against vitriolic reviewers (among whom he does not include Hulbert). Sante doesn't necessarily endorse father-daughter liaisons, of course, but he does endorse writing about them. (Next month we will publish a "Dialogue" between Harrison and one of her critics.)

Our "The Earthling" columnist, Robert Wright, by contrast, does indeed endorse sleeping with your daughter. In fact, he says he's shared a bed with both his daughters--and his wife. Bob's daughters, we hasten to add, were infants at the time, and his column is an argument against "Ferberizing"--the near-universal American practice of training babies to sleep alone by ignoring their tears of loneliness and terror. Dr. Ferber says it's good for them. Mr. Wright disagrees. We'll see how his daughters turn out, and let you know in about 30 years.

Then there's our "Good Sport" contributor, Joel Achenbach, whose article on the thoroughbred-racing-stud system, "Emission Accomplished," is mostly a highly educational description of two horses mating. Birds and bees are not in the same league. As Achenbach is not vulgar enough to point out (but we are), his piece puts all those stories about Catherine the Great in a vivid new perspective.

Slate, let us be clear, is a magazine about politics, policy, and culture--not about sleeping arrangements, whether among family members, animals, or both or neither. Who knows what mysterious forces led us down this garden path? As Noel Coward once sang, "That cow's expression is quite obscene/It must have something to do with Spring." Next week, though, it's back to the Future of NATO. Or perhaps a Survey of Canadian Fiction. We promise.


Free Lurking

"The Fray," our reader-discussion forum, has always required user registration. The lawyers make us do this because participants are publishing messages to the world and must take some responsibility for what they say. But it recently occurred to us--we're a little slow--that this logic applies only to people who want to write in the Fray, not to those who just want to read it. So from now on, you can enter the Fray--from the bottom of every article in Slate or from the contents page--without registering or signing in. The Registration/Sign-In page pops up only if you want to put in your own 2 cents' worth. We strongly encourage you to do so. It's fun. It's free. And, in case you weren't aware of it, in the Web culture people who enter bulletin boards and chat rooms but don't join in the conversation are known as "lurkers." It's not considered sportsmanlike. At Slate, though, we don't mind. Lurk away. It's easier than ever.

Local Boy Makes Good

It's being announced the day this appears on the Web, Friday, March 28, that Slate's poetry editor, Robert Pinsky, has been selected as the next poet laureate of the United States. Robert, who selects our poem every week, is much too modest to have chosen one of his own. But you can sample his prose style in two "Diary" columns he has written for us, one in August and one in December (both available in the Compost). The poet laureate is an officer of the Library of Congress. His or her duties include converting all public remarks by the speaker of the House into iambic pentameter (rhyming optional); composing ribald limericks about any lawsuits filed against the president for sexual harassment; and debating the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee about whether a poem is lovely as a tree. Actually, the poet laureate's duties are a bit vague. But we hope to persuade Pinsky to keep another diary for us after his enthronement so that we can learn what it's all about. Meanwhile, his epic poem about fathers sleeping with daughters will be appearing on this site shortly.

--Michael Kinsley