1. It never fails to surprise me how many people are like “Oh, poor Marc Smirnoff.” Though, you know, folks, maybe we’re the only people in the world–beside that poor intern–he was a raging asshole to? Let’s feel special.
2. It’s a long story that I won’t get into out of respect for the fact that the people I care about have changed a great deal in the intervening years, but let me just say that I feel about this the way Daisy Duke might feel upon learning that Boss Hogg had bankrupted Hazzard County. If the Duke boys were running pot not moonshine.
3. Okay, so I learned something–I think–yesterday. The Necronomicon was NOT written by Lovecraft, as I’d always assumed, but was written by some Ed Smith dude. So, Lovecraft made up a book. And then the book appeared and everyone who didn’t think it was written by the “Mad Arab” assumed it was written by Lovecraft but really, it was written by some other dude, who seems to have hoped people might mistake it for Lovecraft. That, my friends, is so great I cannot stand it.
Back to 2, for a second. It will be weird, if there’s wide-spread legalization of marijuana, to realize how many people I know will be able to tell stories of their youthful days as our equivalent of rum runners.
1. Whew. I can now renew my subscription to the OA. 2. I’m no apologist for Smirnoff, but often the talented people are also very profoundly f**ked up people 3. The article reminded me of the genius of Florence King – if you haven’t read her work, run grab one of her books.
I’m amused by two sentences in the Times article–the dots being left unconnected, naturally.
1: “We will not publish pieces about family reunions, or recipes, or beauty contests, or picturesque porches, or local anchormen, or picnicking, or interior decorating, or lovely gardens, or Southern soap opera stars.” (Young Mr. Smirnoff said that.)
And 2: (from the reporter): Part of what appealed to me and to many others about The Oxford American could almost be understood as a class issue. It has never been clubbable. Instead it’s been weird and raw and willing to appear uncouth..
That the first comment amounts to a broad rejection of the values and interests of a broad swath of working and middle-class Southerners, particularly, it would seem from the first list, many female Southerners from those classes, including ones who went to the Wrong Schools, the OA’s sensibility (and I say this though they’ve at times been very nice to me, and I’ve contributed there) is pretty well class-based in a way the Times writer is not about to acknowledge. You have to feel pretty well accounted for, and secure, to play weird, raw and “willing to appear uncouth.” But what else is new.
Beth, I was saying on Facebook that I think to have the kind of audacity necessary to pull of what he did… well, it’s not surprising that he seems to have a lot of negative audacity as well. He doesn’t believe limits apply to him. Works great for making an amazing magazine. Works poorly when terrorizing interns.
Barry, your last two sentences are so wise I about can’t stand it. I also think that feeds into a lot of the problems the OA has had attracting women and people of color writers to the fold. Appearing uncouth has different stakes for different people. Some folks are rarely praised or valued for appearing that way.
+1 on the very wise stuff Barry said. The “we will not publish” quote is so profoundly class-based that I actually got hung up on that when I was reading the article and eventually just fell into a giggling fit. Probably because I went to the Wrong School or some such.
The other thing I got hung up on was this, but I’m not finished trying to think through it yet: “The most passionate Southerners are often the ones who come from someplace else.”
The sentences I got hung up on is:
In July Mr. Smirnoff was fired after being accused of sexual harassment. Also, he admitted that he gave alcohol to under-age interns. I can’t say whether these actions were closer to peccadilloes or closer to something much worse.
Why can’t we call these actions what they are? Illegal.
It is not charmingly eccentric to sexual harass your employees. It is not admirably subversive to violate liquor laws on a state campus.
JCC, that’s exactly the part where I was like “Really, we can’t just call a thing what it is?” What he did was illegal. What he did to the intern was OBVIOUSLY unwelcome by her, by his own account. I mean, my god, it’s one thing–a terrible thing–to say “Well, maybe it’s just a misunderstanding” or “maybe we’re not getting the whole story” when one party says “he did this shitty, weird thing and I told him I’d rather (I forget the exact phrase but something like ) eat a dead puppy than do the other weird, shitty thing he was proposing” and the other says, “No, that’s not what happened.” But it’s a deep act of willful delusion to hear from the person doing the weird, shitty thing that he did a weird, shitty thing and that the person he did it to responded “I’d rather eat a dead puppy (or something similar) than be here with you” and say “Oh, well, we just don’t know what really happened.”
Holy shit! This isn’t he said one thing, she said another. This is he said he did this thing she said he did and he said she said she hated it and wanted him to stop and he said he heard her say that. And Dwight Garner is still all “We don’t know what really happened. Maybe it wasn’t that bad.” Dwight! The only person here who’s not willing to admit what really happened is you! Smirnoff’s own words are damning.
Brazilla, I feel like that sentiment–“The most passionate Southerners are often the ones who come from someplace else.”–is almost platitudinous. It skirts right up to the edge of something true and then shies away. Because, after all, if you pair it with the passages Barry highlighted, what becomes clear is that Smirnoff is very passionate about a slice of constructed South, a place he arranged to reflect back to him a territory he can live with.
Which, you know, I think is fine. I couldn’t deny doing the same thing. But I realize I’m creating a fantasy. I wonder if Garner gets that Smirnoff was.
You know, we always implicitly compare the zeal of the convert to the lack of zeal of the native. But it’s usually also at a bit of a tangent to the zeal of the zealous native, too.
Wrt the way that what Smirnoff said he wanted (and didn’t want) in his writers was gendered, I think it’s a more complicated issue than it being difficult in many contexts for women to get away with being uncouth. Because I think Smirnoff would have slammed uncouth, wild women writers with the best of them. We know that as an editor thought that women ought to do as he told them — not just the writers, but critics and commentators, too. That doesn’t mix well with the kind of writing he said he wanted. So he put women who wanted to write for him into a real double bind.
That’s an excellent point, nm. What he said he wanted in writers was not something he tolerated very well in women at all.