Correction: A previous version of this post incorrectly identified the author in question as Richard Epstein. The post's author was in fact Joseph Epstein. NewsBusters regrets the error.
Author Joseph Epstein disowned the New York Times today. "Adios, Gray Lady," he proclaimed at the Weekly Standard's website. "She's become a bit - perhaps more than a bit - of a slut," Epstein claimed, "whoring after youth through pretending to be with-it."
Epstein hysterically decried the Times's ongoing descent into pomposity and cultural irrelevance. And Epstein would know - he claims he's been a subscriber for 50 years.
Chief among Epstein's grievances was the contents of the Times's opinion pages. Though he praised David Brooks, longtime token conservative of the Times's commentators (and by many measures hardly a conservative at all), as not being "locked into a Pavlovian political response," Epstein claimed that "I find no need to read any of the Times's regular columnists."
Every so often I check to remind myself that Maureen Dowd isn't amusing, though she is an improvement, I suppose, over the termagantial Anna Quindlen, whom I used to read with the trepidation of a drunken husband mounting the stairs knowing his wife awaits with a rolling pin. I'd sooner read the fine print in my insurance policies than the paper's perfectly predictable editorials. Laughter, an elegant phrase, a surprising sentiment-the New York Times op-ed and editorial pages are the last place to look for any of these things....
I could go on about the artificial rage of Frank Rich-the liberals' Glenn Beck-or the forced gaiety of "Sunday Styles," but the main feeling I have as I rise from having wasted an hour or so with the Sunday New York Times is of what wretched shape the country is in if it is engaged in such boringly trivial pursuits, elevating to eminence such dim cultural and political figures, writing so muddledly about ostensibly significant subjects.
Ouch. Epstein's grievances, though, went far beyond the paper's columnists, to other, less ostensibly political sections.
I sometimes glimpse the Arts section to see which wrong people are being praised or have been awarded large cash prizes or recognized for years of mediocre achievement by election to the American Academy of Arts & Letters. Arts, of course, are no longer quite The Arts, at least in the New York Times, which features hard rock and rap music and video games and graphic novels under the rubric The Arts. Only the photographs of dancers lend an aesthetic dimension to the shabby section.
I lift the Sunday New York Times from the hallway outside our apartment with a heart twice the weight of the hefty paper itself. From it I extract the Book Review, the magazine, "Sunday Styles," the "Week in Review." For decades now the New York Times Book Review has been devoted to reinforcing received (and mostly wrong) literary opinions and doing so in impressively undistinguished prose. The New York Times Magazine has always been dull, but earlier it erred on the side of seriousness. Now it is dull on the side of ersatz hipness. The other Sunday I put myself through a long article on the dangers of leaving a record of one's minor misdeeds on the Internet. The article's last sentence instructed that "we need to learn new forms of empathy, new ways of defining ourselves without reference to what others say about us and new ways of forgiving one another for the digital trails that will follow us forever." Yes, I thought, and wet birds never fly at night.
Epstein ends his jeremiad with a simple request: "Cancel my subscription, please."