Reich Writes on Rauch, Rauch Writes on Reich
Jonathan Rauch's article in last week's Slate ("Robert Reich, Quote Doctor") suggesting that the former secretary of labor fantasized large chunks of his recent memoir has stirred a pleasing fuss in Washington. Of course, like all journalists, we at Slate, when we must make troubling accusations against public figures, do so more in sorrow than in anger. It truly disappoints us when a man or a woman in public life fails to meet our standards of morality, literary ethics, or oral hygiene. Like all journalists, we would like nothing better than to be denied all such opportunities for indignation. That said, however, we cannot deny a small frisson of excitement when the opportunity comes along. No doubt we are the only journalists who suffer from this spiritual flaw.
Robert Reich has asked us to publish an article by him in reply to Jonathan Rauch. Ordinarily this is tricky territory for a publication. People are entitled to reply when criticized. But usually that means a short letter. If you allow everyone who comes under criticism in your pages to reply at equal or greater length, you won't have any room left to criticize anyone new--should that become tragically necessary.
In the vastness of cyberspace, however, these considerations do not apply with the same force. Therefore, in a special supplement to "E-Mail to the Editors," we publish Reich's reply to Rauch. We also publish Rauch's reply to Reich. And if Slate columnist Robert Wright or Limbaugh (Rush) or Robert Rauschenberg wishes to write about Reich on Rauch or Rauch on Reich, we'll find room for them too.
Cut to the Chase
Forget aesthetic judgments--the key overlooked question about film today is: Why don't the plots make any sense? To address this critical gap, we inaugurate an occasional column called "Plot Holes" (to be posted Tuesdays or Wednesdays), which will analyze movies exclusively from the perspective of narrative logic. The author, screenwriter Stephen Harrigan, will also try to explain where plot holes come from. Aesthetic judgments will continue to be rendered by our regular film critic, David Edelstein. We were only kidding when we said you should forget them.
Two Slate-related authors have books to push, and we're happy to help. Julie Bick is related to Slate by marriage: Her husband, Rogers Weed, is our publisher. Julie's new book, from Pocket Books (Simon & Schuster), is called All I Really Need to Know in Business I Learned at Microsoft, which is more or less self-explanatory. Julie spent several years as a manager at the well-known Redmond, Wash., software firm, and in this book she shares the management insights she gleaned there. (Look for a forthcoming companion volume by Slate's Judith Shulevitz, All I Really Need to Know in Journalism I Learned Somewhere Else. For more on Bick's book, click here.)
Michael Lewis' Trail Fever (Knopf) is an expansion of his reportage on the 1996 presidential campaign for the New Republic. Slate readers got a taste of Michael in his recent "Dispatches" from the British election. His take on Picasso and The New Yorker will be posted Wednesday, June 11, and he will be writing regularly for Slate beginning in the fall. Michael is best known for Liar's Poker, his devastating 1990 memoir of the time he spent working as an investment banker. Liar's Poker is largely credited with transforming the investment-banking profession from the collection of arrogant greedheads it was in the 1980s to the humble and public-spirited group it is today. Such is the power of well-chosen words. To order Trail Fever directly from the publisher, online or by phone or fax, click here.
How Dismal Can You Get?
Under threat of litigation, we have had to abandon the name "The Dismal Scientist" for Paul Krugman's economics column. The rights to that name have been claimed by another Web site. Krugman's column will henceforth be known as "The Dismal Science," a phrase too famous to be ownable by anyone, except possibly British essayist Thomas Carlyle (1795-1881), who coined it. Carlyle was inspired, if that's the word, by the writings of Thomas Malthus, who predicted that population growth would always outpace economic growth, keeping most people in perpetual poverty. That was more than two centuries ago, and remarkably, it is the last time any economist made a faulty prediction.
Geoffrey Chaucer! Live on Slate!
Followers of our weekly poem may have noticed that Slate poetry editor (and U.S. poet laureate) Robert Pinsky chose to run something by Ben Jonson last week. It may seem remarkable that Jonson, who died in 1637, is still submitting poems to magazines. But poetry is a rough business, requiring eternal optimism about the possibility of publication, even if gloom is considered the Proper Poetical Stance on most other issues. In the spirit of equal opportunity, Pinsky has decided to cease discriminating against poets who suffer the ultimate disability of being deceased. Preference will be given to poetry of the past that is especially suitable for reading aloud. RealAudio has not yet perfected sound recordings from beyond the grave, so poems by dead poets will be read by Pinsky himself rather than by the author. Living poets will continue to be eligible as well. The poem posted June 4, for example, is by Joyce Carol Oates, who is very much alive and reads it herself.
Look for Emily Dickinson's forthcoming poem, All I Really Need to Know in Poetry I Learned at Microsoft.