Monday, February 14, 2005

Articles that deserve to be read together...

1. The New York
Times restaurant review of Masa, and from the New Yorker, John Kenney's "review" of the same restaurant, sort of. From the former...

Lunch or dinner for two can easily exceed $1,000.

Justifiable? I leave that question to accountants and ethicists. Worth it? The answer depends on your budget and priorities. But in my experience, the silky, melting quality of Masa's toro and uni and sea bream, coupled with the serenity of its ambience, does not exist in New York at a lower price.

2. Hugh Hewitt (and for meme-correctness I add in here "Hank the Angry Drunken Dwarf") whined here about the LA Times review of his "Blog," and "I am Not a Jackass," by A. J. Jacobs, reflecting on Joe Queenan's skewering in the NY Times Book Review of his book ''The Know-It-All: One Man's Humble Quest to Become the Smartest Person in the World." Jacobs is far, far wittier than Hewitt...

Reactions came in three varieties:

1. Calls with the soothing death-in-the-family, are-you-O.K.? tone of voice. These people all but offered to come over and remove the shoelaces from my Nikes.

2. The outraged-ally call. A disturbing number of friends claimed to know ''people in Jersey who could take care of things, if you get my meaning.'' One acquaintance lives in the same New York suburb as Queenan. She actually cased his house as a possible egg-throwing target.

3. The look-on-the-bright-side calls. By conveniently leaving out the ''nots'' and ''nos,'' a colleague was able to construct a blurb from the review: ''hilarious . . . entertaining . . . interesting.''

Good intentions, but I preferred to spend my time brooding. Why did it have to be reviewed by Joe Queenan? Couldn't they have picked someone nicer? Like Dale Peck? Or Moktada al-Sadr? Instead, I got this guy who proudly calls himself a hatchet man (it's in the subtitle to one of his books) and who apparently ate some bad chicken tikka masala before writing his review.

I spent weeks fuming over his attack on my sense of humor. He called me ''a poor man's Dave Barry; no, a bag person's Dave Barry.'' That's absurd. I am actually a bag person's David Sedaris. As for Queenan's comedic credentials, well, I don't want to sink to his level. O.K., maybe just dip down. I'd never been a big fan of Queenan's tediously grumpy shtick. I'd always put him alongside Mark Russell -- the bow-tied PBS satirist who sings wacky songs about tort reform -- in a pile of humor professionals I could safely ignore. A real Mencken manque.

Hewitt just comes off as paranoid and egotistical. At least Jacobs can write about the bad review his book got with good-natured humor. Outside of the LA Times, has Hewitt even acknowledged that much of the blogosphere outside of his Amen chorus has thought his work, especially recently, evocative of excrement? (Here's another great take on Hewitt...)

I should say that I think all 4 articles should be read together: they are a nice representation of the vanity and absurdity in the United States today; though the New Yorker piece is most assuredly the most good natured of all of them...although it- like the "Jackass" article, have the subtext that the intended audience would just as much love to be treated to a repast at Masa as they would get a favorable NY Times Book review...

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