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Comments: Week of February 1, 2010


1. Our cover story on the implosion of John Edwards (“Saint Elizabeth and the Ego Monster,” January 18–25) provided two weeks of nonstop fodder for the political gossip mill. (The book from which it was excerpted, Game Change, by New York Magazine contributing editor John Heilemann and Mark Halperin, has just debuted at No. 1 on the New York Times best-seller list.) The Edwards story received over 580,800 hits online, and the reactions of some commenters are charted below. “This is really nasty stuff,” wrote a blogger at “But it is absolutely fascinating to see that difference between what the public sees and what staffers see and it is interesting to see what those supporting horribly flawed candidates do to protect them.” Some took issue with the excerpt’s tone concerning its female characters. One writer at Jezebel zeroed in on the characterization of Elizabeth Edwards, in particular. “If losing a child and bearing up nobly under illness make one a female icon, reads the subtext, well, cursing and riding her staff hard suggest exactly the converse—and there is, apparently, nothing in between.” Tom Watson at the Huffington Post echoed that comment, noting, “You can’t help but feel that the ‘crazy woman’ character is so easily applied to females on the political stage … Glancing through the New York cartoons is a trip through that little garden of American political sexism so beloved by the mainstream media.” Others, like bloggers at the Daily Kos, preferred to take the saga as a whole: “It’s an epic story of the Edwards family and campaign as it lurched and struggled … This was a guy who, if he’d played his cards right, might have made history. He could have been a new JFK, in the best sense of the word. Now he’s a punch line. A sad story of poor judgment, human fallibility and disaster on many levels.” Last Thursday, Edwards admitted he was the father of Rielle Hunter’s daughter, Quinn.

2. Our last issue also highlighted two tragic stories of famed heiresses: Bob Kolker wrote about Scripps heir Annie Morell Petrillo’s leap from the Tappan Zee Bridge (“The Scripps Inheritance,” January 18–25), and Paula Froelich mused on the relationship between socialites and gossip columns after the death of Casey Johnson (“The Casey Johnsons I Have Known,” January 18–25). Many commenters were sympathetic to the women and their families. Some criticized the magazine for focusing attention on their misfortunes—“Some stories should never be published and this is one of them,” one wrote about “The Scripps Inheritance”—and others praised the magazine’s approach: “[Froelich’s] article felt really honest. It’s why I like New York.” Some friends of the Petrillo family wrote to correct what they believed to be an insensitive portrait of the victim. “Uninspiring, shallow and dispassionate,” one wrote. “[Annie] chose to live a life filled with hope. For sixteen years, she continued to love, to trust, and sought ways to overcome the trauma and depression associated with her mother’s death. Yes, there were low points, she was human after all, but to highlight only those ideas truly comes off as cruel.” Another wrote, “I am deeply sickened by this article and the false portrayal of sweet Annie and her family. You have no idea how wonderful, loving, kind, nurturing and beautiful the Morell women are. Please let Annie’s soul rest in peace.”

3. Vanessa Grigoriadis’s profile of punk idol and talented memoirist Patti Smith (“Remembrances of the Punk Prose Poetess,” January 18–25) elicited an outpouring of affection among commenters. A sampling: “This was beautiful, inspiring, and even humbling … In my opinion, [Smith] has written her great story.” “She plugged my soul into a socket and I love her.” “She is my idol … I have seen her perform every year on December 30th for maybe thirteen years.” “I wanted to not like Patti Smith … But I have read your article and have come to appreciate and love her. Her poetry is ultimately sublime … Unquestionably the real deal. Thank you for being the wild horse that you so obviously are.” Readers across the web were equally inspired. Blog Blackberries to Apples wrote, “This woman doesn’t let a word escape her lips that is not thoughtful and poetic … In addition to loving the story, I have become obsessed with this photograph [of Smith and Robert Mapplethorpe] … They’re clearly fucking badasses and I want to be them.”

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