Letters

Readers respond to "The Sound Bite and the Fury," by Louis Bayard, and "Making Passes at Passover," by Sheerly Avni.


Salon Staff
April 23, 2003 12:47AM (UTC)

[Read "The Sound Bite and the Fury," by Louis Bayard.]

Adolescence unrestrained by humanity. By maturity. By dignity. By respect. By kindness. By real honesty.

No, it will not be fun to watch James Frey implode under the weight of his own shrieking ego. I've seen them come and go in my 12 years of recovery from alcohol and other drugs, and this alleged "celestial event" is more likely to end more pathetically than Bayard suspects.

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Frey can rail in the moonlight against the sea and its relentless softness. Yet he stands among the remains and the ruins of rocks made fools of when he does so.

The obviousness of the hubris is plain and clear. The paucity of meaning and the sagaciousness of the interviewer coalesce into a nausea felt in many detox wards across the country.

Louis Bayard's perspective has all the appeal of a rush hour rubbernecker slowing down to get a possible glimpse of entrails while backing up traffic for miles behind him. And is equally as irritating.

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-- Greg Mucha

What is it with thirtysomething megalomaniacs and their memoirs of addiction? What makes James Frey think anyone really cares that he was stupid and self-destructive? What's the story? Why won't "the best fucking writer in the world" figure out that real "fucking writers" can do better than spew the dramas of their own lives in black-turtleneck-wearing, high-school-literary-wannabe, stream-of-consciousness nonsense posing as "new, innovative style ' by capitalizing nouns and leaving out punctuation? Why are we still reading memoirs by thirty-nothings who think there's something sexy or dramatic or admirable about flushing their own lives down the toilet and then oh-so-dramatically struggling back to normalcy with the help of Mom and Dad and an expensive residential rehab facility? Since when should one be regarded as a "literary rock star" by artlessly drenching one's paragraphs with more profanity than the average door panel of a boys' bathroom stall?

Having a messed-up life and a brash manner might make one marketable, but it doesn't make one an artist. Let's hold out on big, bad Mr. Frey until he produces "a big fat book" that requires something other than ego and persistence -- like talent, imagination, vision ... any of the aforementioned would be a good start. And stop wasting your time promoting arrogant hacks who exploit the public's taste for confessional diarrhea and brazenness and give the space to the real literary artists outside the New York boys' club.

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-- Ed Tarkington

The gritty, gushy review of Frey's addiction novel only shows me who has rewritten "Go Ask Alice" this year. Is there really any room in our Victim Culture for such boring books about self-abuse, and the requisite pose of "redemption"? Great, a rehash of "The Basketball Diaries" by a guy who says "fuck" a lot in interviews and probably couldn't hit a free throw to save his life. A guy who wants to be the "best." What Frey lacks in soul and human emotion -- seemingly too frightened, too tough to reveal either -- he instead regales the reader with descriptions of his physiological depths.

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Just because somebody gets drunk and high doesn't mean they have deep philosophical reasons behind it. Some people choose that life simply because they can't keep up with a bingo caller. Frey is a writer too dull to take up space on any bookstore bookshelf, and surely too trite and recycled for the space he occupies on Salon.com. Maybe he should just shut up and get a master's degree.

-- Matt St. Amand

[Read "Making Passes at Passover," by Sheerly Avni.]

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I had to laugh when I read this article! This year I co-hosted a 24-person seder with two single, Jewish girlfriends and the typical San Francisco, single-Jew dating dynamics were in full effect!

The three hostesses had been on at least one date with five of the guests. All three of us had been on a date with one in particular (we like to pass them around our circle, given that the pickings are so slim). I personally had three at the table that I had been out with: two from JDate and one a New Year's rendezvous. Then there was the single guy who nobody had met before -- a friend of a friend with no seder to attend -- and he was like our personal Elijah, coming to save us from an evening full of already-dateds. We even googled him before the seder to figure out his story and see if he was cute!

Co-hostess Julie's parents were there, too, and her dad was relentlessly working the room for her. Of course there were the day-after e-mails of single women asking about some of the other single guys at the seder. The greatest irony of the evening might have been that there were three "interfaith" couples at the seder (out of four) ... in two of them, the men were Jewish (though one of the women does work as a teacher at a Jewish day school -- go figure!) and in the third, the woman was Jewish.

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"Let my people go!" said Moses. If he were around today he may say, "Let my people date!"

-- Marcy Scott Lynn

What makes for the quintessential "Jewish man" when people who don't look Jewish or didn't have a Jewish childhood can convert?

Jews come in all shapes, sizes, colors and personalities.

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While the women at your seder table were kvetching about "Jewish" men, they were missing out on an important aspect of Jewish life: the religion. It's the only thing that brings together Sephardic Jews of Spain, Ashkenazic Jews of Eastern Europe, Ethiopian Jews, converted suburban American Jews -- like me -- and on and on. It's the deepest connection and most lasting between Jews.

I'm looking for a Jewish woman for a serious relationship, but Jewish doesn't mean they ate matzo when they were a kid and memorized their Torah portion for their bar/bat mitzvah.

-- A Gentile-Turning-Jew

Sheerly Avni describes six single women who whine and complain that all single Jewish men are Mama's boys. In the same article she explains how these women can't understand why they're having trouble dating Jewish men. With that attitude, these women better start looking for non-Jewish men or get used to the single life. It's likely to be the only one they'll ever know.

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-- Craig Forman

I want to believe that there are hip, single, eligible Jewish women looking for independent, self-sustaining (no mama's boys, please) Jewish men, but I've yet to meet one. They say "they're" out there. And they say "we're" not? What a bowl of borscht!

Trust me ladies, there are plenty of cute, well-adjusted Jewish guys. They just don't hang out in bars very much.

As for passes at the passover seder... I think Table 26 needs a better group of men to play hide the afikomen with. These guys sounded like real yawners.

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And by the way, the writer was dead-on about JDate.

-- Jeff Hirsch

It is really simple: Ideally, you end up with someone you have stuff in common with. If some of your stuff is Jewish, then it is likely you will end up with someone whose stuff is also Jewish, but if your stuff is not Jewish (or if it is simply a meaningless label that you inherited and have conflicted opinions about), then it is likely that you will be attracted to the same.

Why do we need to be subjected to others' guilt for being who they are? It is not a crime.

-- Mark Rosen

Five stars for the honesty of the author.

Was she spoofing herself, or does she not realize that no man without an iron jockstrap would want to have anything to do with her table?

-- Mark Homer


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