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Home » Baseball

The Sports Gack

Submitted by on June 7, 2011 – 7:20 PM34 Comments


Times scribe Jonathan Mahler freezes my distaste for Bill Simmons in carbonite — SEE WHAT I DID THERE?! — in just three grafs

The 31 May New York Times Magazine profile of Bill Simmons is standard for that genre: "behold the rise of a snarker from the AOL farm team to" blah blah blah "gol-lee, a Melrose reference in a piece about the AL West!" blah. I have had the pleasure of seeing my own everyday work taskery transformed by a Times Mag journalist into a cutting-edge undertaking; it's the nature of that publication to confer consequence on its subjects, so I don't blame Simmons himself for the damply admiring description of how he marries sports commentary with TV references.

But while the hype isn't on him, buying into it is, and I get the feeling — from this piece, from others I've read about him, and from his own work — that Simmons is content to let people believe he's the first writer ever to use pop-culture references in or adjacent to sportswriting. Hey, maybe he is. It's definitely part of his brand, as is the forthright homerism about the Red Sox, but it's a frattily self-congratulatory brand that, while I've occasionally admired the writing and totally acknowledge the work ethic, I don't care for.

Credit to profiler Jonathan Mahler, though; he crams everything I dislike about Simmons™ into three grafs on the sixth page, starting with Simmons's apparent sabremetrophobia:

Simmons doesn't write much about baseball anymore — he has been turned off by the fetishization of statistics that now dominates coverage of the sport — but he still likes going to games. In late April, I met him and a couple of other guys for a day game at Dodger Stadium. The ballpark was almost empty. "That Giant thing was not good," Simmons said, referring to the recent beating of a Giants fan in the stadium parking lot. "Also, the team being taken over by the commissioner — not good for fan support."

I assume that the "fetishization of statistics" line is a paraphrase of Simmons and not Mahler editorializing about baseball writing, but either way, it put me in mind of Lee Siegel whining about LOLcats. I suspect that Simmons wouldn't characterize it as "fetishization" if he understood — or, more to the point, tended to get credit for inventing — the statistics in question. Instead, it reads the way it inevitably did with Joe Morgan: he doesn't want to learn new stats or formulas, and he resents the fact that his failure to participate is not then the end of them, that they continue to exist and even, because he refuses to learn about them, seem to "dominate coverage."

I'd actually like to know if sports coverage now is stat-heavier than, say, 20 years ago, simply by volume…but I don't think it is. The stats themselves have changed, but it's not like Jerry Izenberg painted a portrait of Wally Backman's batting average during a Cubs series using only synonyms for "mediocre," back in the day. He wrote something like, "Backman hit .193 against Chicago pitching." That's a stat. Get over it. "But baseball is about the stories on th–" I know. I agree. Stats have stories in them; Bill James, who is the grandfather of many of these stats, and who works in the front office of the Red Sox, has said dozens of times that he created various equations because the existing formulae didn't tell him enough about the stories he saw or heard in the stands. He wanted to make shooting the breeze concrete. There is poetry in math, and it takes 14 seconds to learn what VORP is and how it's calculated, after which brief time you can bust on the likes of, say, Derek Jeter with more authority. Get over it.

And in the second place, even if we concede that arcane stats have choked the life out of baseball writing, that only explains why Simmons might not read about baseball much anymore, not why he doesn't write about it. If he really believes WAR and BABIP have swamped the boat of baseball coverage, wouldn't he want to get down on his knees and bail with regular columns of his own on the subject, to counteract all the mathy poindexter goings-on? Or does he just not feel like he can write credibly on baseball without using them himself — which perhaps is why he dislikes them to begin with?

Or is it that, now that the Red Sox have completed their transformation from official team of the Vale of Tears to perennial powerhouse, he doesn't care that much anymore? Is he a foul-weather fan? Hey, that's okay, if it's the case. Rooting for a crap team is really really fun in its way, especially if you do love baseball for the stories, because nothing has better, more plentiful punchlines than a team whose ace is a knuckler who's almost my age. (For example.) (Sigh.) I get it. But just say so. Don't make it about begrudging ideas whose time has come.

Speaking of crap teams, if Chavez Ravine is empty these days, it's likely because the Dodgers have not played good baseball to date. Or…because we've had a cold spring. Or…because it's still a tough economy, and a family trip to the park isn't doable for lots of people, or because the commute to Dodger Stadium is an ass-tear, or or or. The Wilponigans with Madoff and that New Yorker article and whatever else don't have thing one to do with whether I make it out to Citi Field, and it's a different situation, but if I'm a Dodger fan, I'm more psyched to follow the team now that MLB took it away from the McCourts, not less. I feel certain I heard Mike Schur say as much on Joe Posnanski's podcast (which is a great listen — loose, lo-fi, and fun) when the power transfer first went down. Any Dodger fans want to weigh in here? Simmons lives out there, so fine, but the remark didn't seem to proceed from that. It didn't seem to proceed from any actual information; it seemed like just something to say.

Simmons spoke with more apparent authority on the subject of Sox fans themselves, and while he's perhaps a foul-weather fan of the team, he's an all-weather fan of other Sox fans. Marvel at the hypocrisy (or don't; it's fairly typical of him) as Simmons — attired in a clothing item that, while it doesn't necessarily indicate fratbaggishness, is certainly strongly correlated with it — harshes on a Dodger fan's kit:

Simmons, who was wearing camouflage shorts and a T-shirt, got a hot dog with mustard and we found our seats behind home plate. "How do you feel about a guy with his own name on the back of his jersey?" Simmons asked, pointing out a man a few rows in front of us in a Dodgers shirt, the name "Scotty G" written across the back. "It's like a double violation. You'd never see that a Red Sox game. He's everything you'd want 'Scotty G' to look like, too, with the slicked-back hair and blue sunglasses."

How petty is Sarah? This petty: I actually checked baseball-reference.com to see if "Scotty G" might refer to a current or recent-past Dodger. It doesn't, and I agree that putting your own name on a team jersey is sort of smurfy. What it isn't is noteworthy. You see it on kids at Citi all the time. The guy probably got it as a gift. So what?

What bugs the most, though, is Simmons snotting that you "would never" see that at Fenway. What Simmons (and Mahler) fails to point out is that you'd never see that at Yankee Stadium, either — because New York and Boston do not put player names on their jerseys at all, only the numbers. You see names on t-shirts sometimes, but not on jerseys, so "never" seeing that at Fenway is not so much a point of comparison — and what you do see at Fenway, among other things, is a bunch of bandwagon-jumping Chi Psi twats and their Dane-Cook-fan girlfriends wearing the green or pink red-B ballcaps and bugging out unironically to Neil Diamond. I have nothing against the Red Sox (except Papelbon), Fenway, or the vast majority of Red Sox Nation, but acting like that fandom isn't the host organism for a super-strain of asshole at least as virulent as the L.A. variety is ridiculous.

Oh, look. Here's that asshole now.

A little later, Simmons spotted a trio of heavyset women in tank tops and cut-off jeans shorts, drinking what appeared to be frozen daiquiris out of plastic Dodger cups. "Look, it's 'Sex and the City'!" he said.

If he'd come right out and said, "NO FAT CHICKS!!!1!!", I miiiiight have a perverse respect for him, but no. He tried to sneak it in there, and the reference is limp in the first place.

Whatever I've thought about his writing in the past, Simmons is evidently hardening into that self-regarding, incurious, middle-aged well-in-my-day blowhard who mistakes endurance for relevance and decibels for insight. He's a talented writer, but he's coasting on shtick, and if he's not interested in letting any new information or opinions in, why should we give a shit about the ones that come out anymore?

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34 Comments »

  • Amanda says:

    [I]f I'm a Dodger fan, I'm more psyched to follow the team now that MLB took it away from the McCourts, not less.

    Yes. I don't know every Dodgers fan in the world, but I also don't know any who want McCourt to keep the team. We were all disappointed that he made payroll this month. That's how things are going, thanks for asking.

    Simmons hasn't been my cup of tea for years; the pop culture references have always seemed clunky and show-offy to me, especially considering 99% of them are from two decades ago. I realize it's hard to slide one into a 'graf deftly, but I would think after all this time he'd be better at it. He's not. Also, baseball has never been his strong suit, and it used to be that this was okay and he rode his strength instead (basketball), but since becoming a brand name, and since the Red Sox aren't Cursed anymore, it's just gotten worse.

    I started to lose my patience with Red Sox fans and media, and unfortunately, the team entirely, when someone — and I can't remember who but it was so blisteringly stupid that it doesn't matter — said a few years ago that the Red Sox without Jerry Remy is like the Dodgers without Vin Scully. You know that scene in The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy where Zaphod enters the Total Perspective Vortex and doesn't get what the big deal is because he's in an alternate universe? Everything surrounding the Red Sox is like that. It's all better when you're a Red Sox fan, because you're a Red Sox fan. Simmons is representative of all this to me.

    (The preceding paragraph is dedicated to clunky pop culture references. Natch.)

  • Sheila says:

    This is the second criticism I've read of Simmons recently that talks about his disdain for advanced metrics, but I'm confused because I read him all the time and I don't see him that way. Maybe I have missed a few columns, or maybe I'm confusing his appreciation of advanced stats in basketball with those in baseball. But it's hard to square this image of him as a "what is this VORP-nonsense" kind of guy with the guy who attended the conference at (I think) MIT that was all about stats in sports. He talks about his buddy who works for the Houston Rockets and how they use stats. I remember a column from last year (I think) where he wrote about several of the "new" baseball stats, because he was trying to talk himself into liking the Red Sox lineup that year.

    If this were anyone but you, I would be thinking that it was just some Simmons hater who jumped from the many other reasons to be annoyed by him (misogyny is my favorite; hello father of a little girl) straight to attributing this other annoying trait to him as well, even though it wasn't warranted. But since it is Sars, I have to assume that I'm the one who missed something. I don't listen to many of his podcasts, after all, so has he been dissing the sabremetrics there?

  • Sarah D. Bunting says:

    @Sheila, the reference is right there in the quote; he thinks statheads have taken over baseball coverage, so he doesn't write about the game anymore. I admit that I don't like Simmons, but I also admit that a distaste for stat-based coverage is not something I'd have attributed to him unless he'd said it himself.

    I don't listen to his podcasts at all. It's wall-to-wall NBA, and I can care about a lot of sports but that just ain't one of them.

  • Jack says:

    He's a talented writer…

    He is? I thought he was a "podcaster" who wrote a column every fortnight. (Zing!)

    Regarding his disdain for advanced baseball stats, at least he has backed off from his old stance of "I don't like new stats because, it's like, you can't have opinions anymore." He might as well have just said "I don't like advanced metrics because I can't stand it when someone points out that my opinions that are formed by small sample sizes that I view through the prism of my own biases are proved wrong by impartial, concrete data." I would give him more credit if the genesis of his "coming around" on sabermetrics wasn't, as someone said above, the fact that last year's Red Sox looked much better in the preseason according to advanced metrics than they did through conventional ones. But a little credit? Sure.

  • Margaret says:

    I read that right after finishing the Shales ESPN book, with similar results. His comments there are along the lines of "they hate me (and Kornheiser and Olbermann) because they're jealous. We're rebels, and we can't be constrained by the man." And his shtick as "I'm the voice of the fan" begins to wear thin when every other piece is about how he's hanging out in Vegas with Kobe, or some such.

  • Sarah D. Bunting says:

    @john, excellent read.

    @Margaret, agreed on the "vox fratuli" shtick. I thought it was telling that Simmons wouldn't let Mahler see his house or meet his wife. I understand protectiveness re: your family, and not wanting people to know where you live, but I also got the sense that Simmons didn't want his fans to know how big the house is.

  • Jessica says:

    Simmons = blah, never interested in him, moving on.

    Question of how much ownership matters in following a team = has come up recently here in Atlanta, with the hockey fans rightly furious at the local clusterfuck that is Atlanta Spirit.

    (Backstory: Ted Turner got, and named, the Thrashers; then the Braves, Hawks, & Thrashers became victims of the AOL/Time Warner merger; then the Braves went to Liberty Media, now known for trying to acquire Barnes & Noble, and the Hawks and Thrashers went to a nine-man ownership team in which one partner ended up tying the other eight in lawsuits for years. As of last week the Thrashers are the Winnipeg To-Be-Renamed.)

    Mark Bradley (longtime local columnist) recently wrote something on how Atlanta gets pilloried all the time for not being a sports town, but maybe the fans are able to distinguish between a local owner they know and recognize and trust somewhat to take care of the team (he cited Arthur Blank, who's based here and owns the Falcons, and Turner's reputation as a Braves owner grows in retrospect) versus groups or corporations without that reputation. I thought he was being too kind to Blank but that otherwise the alienation angle was worth something.

    So I'd be with Sars's hypothesis, that taking the team away from the McCourt drama would make Dodgers fans feel better, not worse. Also, the economy and the parking. In both Atlanta and L.A.'s cases. There were 7,000+ foreclosures in our county last year.

  • FloridaErin says:

    When one of the talking heads on MLB Network or ESPN start lamenting statistics, or "new" statistics, or use the words "intangible" or clutch, I immediately think of you and smile.

    "I have nothing against the Red Sox (except Papelbon), Fenway, or the vast majority of Red Sox Nation, but acting like that fandom isn't the host organism for a super-strain of asshole at least as virulent as the L.A. variety is ridiculous."

    Hands down the funniest thing I've read in a long time. I had to cover my mouth because my office door is open and I didn't want people to come ask what I was reading. Though, as I always try to follow a negative with a positive, I went to a spring training game this year between the Red Sox and the Tigers (at home for Tigers) and it was by far the most fun I've ever had at a ball game. The place was packed, everyone was SO into it, and the Sox fans were just as likely to heckle their own players as they were ours. And, oh, was it good heckling.

    Also, I personally know a Red Sox fan who just got a shirt for her birthday with her softball number and last name on the back. So, take that, Simmons.

    @Amanda- Points for the Hitchhiker's reference. That was fabulous.

  • Sarah D. Bunting says:

    Simmons's intro for Grantland: http://www.grantland.com/story/_/id/6635763/welcome-grantland

    Not bad, but too long, and that should probably be the last few blocks of mileage he gets out of working at Kimmel. Also, Klosterman is a "young" "up-and-comer"? I like Klosterman's writing, but let's not act like he's been stuck down on the farm.

  • Cracala says:

    Hey Sars, a little bit of a tangent and pardon my ignorance, but why do you not like Papelbon? I'm curious because I live in Boston and he is treated like a God here (although not so much last year when he wasn't doing as well).

    Apologies if this is obvious–I searched the archives but couldn't figure it out.

  • Another Elizabeth says:

    Ugh, the anti-stat people. I miss Fire Joe Morgan. How can you not like stats that are not only useful but come with names that sound like laser weapons and robots? (Vorpvorpvorp! Ba-bip. Ba-bip. Ba-bip.)

    I would totally bag on someone for having a jersey with his name on it, but I'm not a highly-paid sports "wit." I get that he didn't feel the need to bring his A-game for the guy planning to suck him off in print, but maybe try a little harder? And yes, pink baseball caps are far more offensive.

    Finally: doesn't Sex and the City have four women? If you're going to make a tired reference, at least make sure it applies.

  • Sarah D. Bunting says:

    @Cracala: That one's totally irrational. I just hate him and his cat-butt mouth.

  • pomme de terre says:

    The Grantland layout is surprisingly McSweenys-ish for such dudebro content.

  • GracieGirl says:

    @Sars: Me, too! I have no particular incident to trace it back to, but every time I see JP, I involuntarily say, "I hate that fucking guy." It’s like a very specific form of Tourette’s.

  • Sarah D. Bunting says:

    @pomme, Simmons mentioned something about a co-published quarterly print something-or-other with McSweeney's. He's also on record as thinking the Grantland Rice reference is maybe too pretentious, though, so who knows how involved he is on that side.

  • BSD says:

    [Also, Klosterman is a "young" "up-and-comer"? I like Klosterman's writing, but let's not act like he's been stuck down on the farm.]

    Well, he did say "mostly" you, up-and-comers.

  • BSD says:

    young, not you.

  • Sarah D. Bunting says:

    Well, I'm not young either. Hee.

  • Gralnger says:

    The thing with the pop-culture references sounds like what you say about Stephen King, which is that he has seen that pop-culture references are considered funny and hip, and so he wants to do it too, but the only pop-culture he knows anything about is from thirty years ago, so it just sounds weird and strange.

  • rab01 says:

    What I find off-putting about Simmons is that he has kept the thin skin of of a disrespected junior internet sportswriter after becoming a higly successful and well paid columnist.

    That said, I am still a fan and I don't think it's fair to lump Simmons in with the "Joe Morgan" crowd. He frequently interviews statheads on his podcasts. He is involved in the MIT Sloan conference on statistics and sports every year and has written lots of articles using statistics and discussing them. What he basically says about baseball and statistics these days is that the current sabermetrics really capture offensive production very well so it makes it harder for him to write interesting opinion pieces comparing baseball players because there is "an answer" for most of those kinds of debates. He frequently writes and talks about the developing statistics in basketball because there is still room for lots of disagreements about those.

    To the extent he writes less about baseball these days, I think it's because (1) he doesn't live in Boston anymore, and (2) he's said a bunch of times that he found the recent Red Sox teams pretty boring to watch. But really, he just writes less in total than he used to.

  • Melissa says:

    I'm really, really trying to focus on your column, because I love baseball. but I feel as if I have nothing to contribute. To wit:

    Cubs, 12 games under .500, 11 1/2 frickin games out of 1st
    Sox, only 4 games under .500, 6 games out

    Bulls are off for the summer
    Blackhawks are off for the summer
    NFL is only theoretical at this point

    Gangs of roving "flash thugs" have taken over North Avenue Beach….

    We're in hell here my friends!

  • bristlesage says:

    @Another Elizabeth, well-played, madam. From here on out, I'm not sure I'll be able to see VORP without instantly flashing to some goofy sci-fi scene, maybe featuring the Evil Emperor Zurg from the Toy Story movies. Or maybe the Power Rangers.

    xFIP! (It's the noise something makes when it teleports, DUH.)

  • MizShrew says:

    I don't follow much sportswriting, so I can't comment on Simmons, but I always enjoy your baseball articles, and here's why:

    "…acting like that fandom isn't the host organism for a super-strain of asshole at least as virulent as the L.A. variety is ridiculous."

    This made my entire day. Thank you.

  • Sophia says:

    Hey Sars -

    I'm sure you've seen this, but just in case (and for other TN readers):

    http://deadspin.com/5403430/you-are-not-the-cosmos-a-review-of-bill-simmons-book-of-basketball

    It's Charlie Pierce's review of Simmons' book for Deadspin, and it's drop-dead awesome.

    And for the record, Papelbon is an arrogant, entitled whiny twit who really needs to learn the value of staying quiet. SHUT UP, JONATHAN. Mariano Rivera YOU AIN'T.

  • Sarah D. Bunting says:

    I've slammed Pierce in the past for his snotty anti-Yankeeism, but he does have an effective tone of dudgeon, I have to say.

  • FloridaErin says:

    Pierce, in the above piece:

    "The secret of basketball is that it's not about basketball."

    It was about at this point that the book flew across the room.

    Heh.

  • Bo says:

    Sorry, I couldn't make it through the first Grantland. Kimmel is already past expiration for me. There's plenty of room for long-form, but fill it with something worth reading.

  • Todd K says:

    I have Simmons's Red Sox book and I enjoyed it overall, because he can be clever and observant. You know, the little things you read that make you reflect, "Yeah, what IS up with Buck Martinez and his 'David OR-teez'?" or "I remember those commercials, and I'm glad someone else thought they were awful and expressed it so well." He can also be good when he loses the irony saturation for a while and really engages with something he cares about. I don't mind the dated pop-culture references. They're the ones that resonate for him and probably many of his readers, and if he's going to make this part of his shtick, I respect him more for continuing to use things like the original 90210. It would be worse if he were desperately trying to keep up by appearing well versed in…whatever shows teenagers watch now. I'm afraid if I hazard a guess, it will be something that went off the air two years ago.

    But yes, the frat-boy affectations and the casual sexism are over-the-top pandering. I might have laughed if a friend of mine had made that "Look! 'Sex and the City'!" comment. We're all mean sometimes; it wouldn't necessarily be about their being overweight as much as their failure to work well with what they have; and really, denim cut-off shorts in 2011 are a risk for anyone. It isn't worse than if someone saw an out-of-shape guy sans shirt and said, "Hey, look! The Situation!" or whatever. But certain attitudes go best in small doses, and we get too much of this stuff from him: "And now So-and-so is whining about being asked to play third base. So-and-so is that one chick you used to date. You know the one. You did everything you were supposed to do to get her to put out, took her to the best restaurant and nice shit for her, and [etc.]" That isn't an exact example, of course, but at times it doesn't even read as "casual" anymore. It's mean and coarse.

    In related news: The continuing attention to the trivial, manufactured "controversies" in that last Yankees/Sox series has reached the level of scraping whatever's *beneath* the bottom of the barrel. I wasn't surprised at all the ink when it was actually going on, because it is The Rivalry of course, but now? Both teams have moved on to their respective next series and I'm still seeing the likes of "Lucchino Talks Ortiz Bat-Flip" and (currently at ESPN, sadly not several days old) "Baseball Tonight on the Yankees hitting David Ortiz."

  • FloridaErin says:

    @Todd K- Don't worry, we've now moved on to "Carmona Was Oviously Trying to Kill Teixeira With That Pitch". ::siiiiiigh::

  • Josh says:

    I'm not as big a fan of Simmons live as I am of his writing, which I still find interesting, insightful, and generally hilarious. (I know, minority opinion around here) Maybe it's the footnotes?

    Having read The Book of Basketball, I have to say it's one of the best comprehensive looks at pro basketball, while being wildly entertaining. It (along with Bill James Historical Abstract) made my list of 10 Books to have if stuck on a desert island.

    One of the things I like best about Simmons' homerism, etc. is how he's totally up front about it, and will set it aside at times in an amusing way. (Read the section on Kareem in The Book of Basketball. He bashes Kareem frequently throughout the book but puts him #3 all-time. He spends a bunch of pages telling the reader exactly why Kareem is not only awesome, but actually more awesome than almost anybody realizes. And then, wants to set himself on fire. Setting yourself on fire comes up like 7 times in the footnotes in that book and it never fails to get a laugh from me.)

    I don't think he's nearly as good on the podcasts or filling in on PTI. Off the cuff he loses a lot of the analysis he does in the columns, and there's no way around it…his voice is naturally a bit whiny. His persona has become more grating as he's gotten more famous, but it's less evident in his writing (which has been sporadic as hell in recent years) than the podcasts, interviews, etc. I can set aside the occasional douchy-ness for the writing, because when he's on (his game diary on Game 6 of the Finals was classic Simmons) he's very good and very funny.

    I really think Simmons is writing less about baseball not because of the stats but because he's a Red Sox fan who lives in LA and doesn't go to games much any longer. He's a basketball fan who was into baseball as a Boston guy and now that A) the RedSox are no longer the sad sacks of the league, B) he no longer gets the live experience with the fans, and C) he's got a bunch of other projects on the line it's just not as interesting to him and he's not writing as much anyway. It's fine. He's not a baseball writer, he's a sportswriter so as long as he doesn't completely ignore baseball it doesn't bother me if he eases it back.

    He does have a point about the current wave of stat-writers: it's made for some really bad writing. For every Bill James or Rich Lederer that works with advanced metrics and weaves them into a compelling story you've got a legion of "writers" out there who can't seem to talk about a statistical analysis without actually resorting to algebra in their columns. Stat analysis isn't a substitute for good writing, but some of the new breed are just as awful as some of the old guard, just in different ways.

  • Sarah D. Bunting says:

    Stat analysis isn't a substitute for good writing, but some of the new breed are just as awful as some of the old guard, just in different ways.

    Well, but that's the point, isn't it. Artery-popping self-righteousness and polarizing blather for its own cynical sake aren't substitutes for good writing either, but that's never stopped Lupica or O'Shaughnessy for a hot minute. The problem isn't the rise of stats; it's that eighty percent of baseball writing is for shit no matter what the rhetorical emphasis.

    I will say that, when I quit on baseball writing, whether it's a blog or a book, it's very seldom because they're doing a bad job incorporating stats smoothly or because their prose is too terse. It's generally because yet another attempt at novelistic lily-gilding has fallen moistly flat. (How's THAT for shit writing. Heh.) I will also say that, although Simmons's writing frustrates me in several ways, that overheated brand of leaden cornpone is not a sin he's guilty of.

    And it's not like he's not allowed to care less about baseball/the Sox now. That's his call. But blaming it on stat coverage is a little "get off my lawn" for my taste.

  • Todd K says:

    "Novelistic lily-gilding…overheated brand of leaden corpone" made me think *immediately* of the Rogers Angell and Kahn, but you probably have in mind their lesser progeny.

  • Sarah D. Bunting says:

    The Rogers are, at times, as guilty as anyone. Kahn can be lyrical; he can also be nearly unreadable.

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