Attention James Lileks: Nancy Nall has your number (and you aren't going to like what she has to say)
class=img_thumbleft>Poor James Lileks, the talented but supremely self-obsessed novelty book writer/ war blogger /soon-to-be-former Strib columnist. This week's announcement that the Strib plans to dump the Daily Quirk, Lileks' lighter-than-air humor column, gave rise to some embarassing expressions of outrage on the net. It's a case of newspaper suicide! huffed Hugh Hewitt, the syndicated right-wing radio host and friend of Lileks.
But it was Lileks himself who led the charge, beginning with an unseemly blog post in which he begged supporters to hector Strib management over his demotion into the realm of—the horror—beat reporters.
The affair has also produced some sharp dissections of the Lileks oeuvre, most notably from a former newspaper columnist turned blogger named Nancy Nall.
If Lileks stumbled across Nall's first post on the subject—he does seems like a Google-alert vanity search type, doesn't he?—it must have stung. Wrote Nall:
I used to like [Lileks'] Newhouse column, until his hardening right-wing sensibilities ruined it for me. Close your eyes, and you'd swear his words were issuing from the mouth of a 33-year-old Grosse Pointe soccer mom in a blonde pageboy, about to climb into her Hummer H2 without guilt, thank you very much, because it makes her feel safe. He never irked me as much as Albom or Greene, probably because he never made it as big as they did, but many times I set aside his work with my eyes crossed in either boredom, rage or frustration, wishing I had the last three minutes of my life back. But what really bugged me about him was his Janus-faced b.s. about the news media and the internet, the way he threw meat to his MSM-hatin' buddies by hatin' right along with them, and then quietly cashing his check on payday. His complaints about news coverage, whether in Iraq or St. Paul, ring hollow from a man who stands up today and frankly admits "writing straight news is a skill I lack, and I take off my hat to those who've mastered that discipline." Really? You do? I must have missed those Bleats. They must have been hidden between the ones hailing the Web as the end of the lecture-based form of journalism, and explaining the secret liberalism that stalks American newsrooms, this from a man who works from the kitchen table in his $600,000 house. And it will be amusing, in the days to come, to see the defense of Lileks coming from people who, days ago, would have agreed that newspapers are overstaffed and need to get some more shoe-leather reporters out on the street. To see them begging to have their humor columnist spared will be quite the entertainment.
Nall is back on the Lileks' beat again today, this time with some deft analysis of trouble with the Daily Quirk: mainly, that it is not very funny. Here she comments on yesterday's Quirk, Lileks musings on—stop the presses—Pepto-Bismol:
I see what he's going for here, but it's not working for me. If the newspaper offered this as a morning day-brightener, something to put a spring in my step as I head out the door, well, sorry. It has the flop-sweaty smell of bad standup. That the paper supposedly compensated the man who wrote this to the tune of $92,000 a year — now that's funny, but probably not in the way they intended.
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