Sprezzatura Agonistes

Haven't had anything to say about Lee Siegel in a while. Although I was going to review Against the Machine for Bookforum, my editor there finally said, more or less, "Why bother?" and no very plausible reply came to mind.

Siegel's work is aptly described by James Wolcott as the result of "applying grotesque amounts of Human Growth Hormone--gobs of it--on otherwise banal observations for bombastic effect." And with that he's just getting started:

Exiled to the outer boroughs of critical journalism where the trains don't run after midnight, Siegel nursed his grievance against the snide nobodies who dared mock a snide somebody like him and sought vengeance and vindication, crafting a heroic tale titled Against the Machine, starring "Lee Siegel" as the last defiant individualist in the pygmy global village of Internet ignorati. Imagine Look Back in Anger's Jimmy Porter pounding away at the computer on a wet Sunday afternoon and you get the general idea of the temper of his text. Like Osborne's Porter, Siegel stormed in vain, convincing only himself of his stunning convictions. It must be vexing, being as brilliant as Siegel thinks he is and, instead of receiving the tokens of tribute from the literary community for his brilliance, getting yet another round of Bronx cheers and hostile snickers. Having one's genius unrecognized during one's lifetime is no doubt frustrating, especially when one once strutted so tall and proud in the pages of The New Republic, wearing a topcat and monocle like Mr. Peanut.
More here.

This seems like the opportunity to mention that there is an occasional guest to the Quick Study comments section who calls himself Spamzatura, though he's not been that frequent a visitor.
April 14, 2008 6:58 AM | | Comments (4)



I love the serendipitous typo-image in the last quoted line of Siegel, like Mr. Peanut, wearing a "topcat and monocole" -- particularly as it involves affected dignity and a feline spray-marking its territory.

Which, come to think of it, would often seem to suit Mr. Wolcott as well.

That's funny. Posting this first thing in the morning (pre-coffee) I didn't even notice it.

By coincidence -- or, perhaps more accurately, via overdetermination -- Wolcott is the author of a novel called The Catsitters.

I reviewed it for Newsday, back when reviewing for Newsday was a regular gig and not the extremely precarious thing that it is now. But the piece seems to be beyond Googling at the moment.

Ed Champion took a good few whacks at Siegel this past weekend to after witnessing Siegel perform Siegel at a conference.


I'm not sure which strikes me as more pathetic, those who don't know the war to contain digital is lost or those who do but continue to fight it anyway.

In case you just can't get enough Siegeliana, a reader points out this item:


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