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Comments: Week of December 2, 2013

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1. “That’s a big claim,” noted Mike Zaroni at Complex about our cover proclaiming Taylor Swift, the subject of a meditative profile by Jody Rosen, “the biggest pop star in the world” (Platinum Underdog,” ­November 25). We were deluged with notes from Swift’s fans (“I just wanted to say this is hands down the best article I’ve ever read about Taylor Swift,” wrote one “Swifty”; “Wonderful article! I’m a grandmother and I love Taylor!” wrote another). And from many who were converted by the piece (“I can’t say I’m a huge Taylor Swift fan, but … after reading this, I kind of hope she does get bigger”). But a few readers were most interested in debating our “bigness” calculus (which had to do with her 26 million albums sold and enough digital-single sales to make her the top-selling solo artist of all). “You could probably make an argument about her being the biggest pop star in the U.S. right now, but the world?” asked Tom Hawking at Flavorwire. “At this point in her career, she’s one of those artists whose resonance is largely confined to her own country. Oh, and the biggest pop star in the world? If there’s one person everyone’s heard of, it’s Bob Marley.” (Although Swift should probably get some bonus points for still being alive.) The most common objection was one voiced on Vulture.com, where the story appeared online: “Hold up hold up, Vulture imma let you finish but ­Beyoncé is the biggest pop star in the world …”


2. “The romance of the conspiracy hunt lies in the way it transfers vitality from the assassin to the buff,” Benjamin Wallace-Wells wrote in an essay that kicked off a sort of conspiracy-theory encyclopedia we put together on the eve of the 50th anniversary of the JFK assassination (The Truly Paranoid Style in American Politics,” November 25). “RABBIT HOLE,” tweeted Sarah Weinman of Publisher’s Lunch. And added @irisblasi, “I will never sleep tonight.” Of all the conspiracy theories, it was the ones about the Kennedy assassination that were received most credulously. Some readers found the tone of the material naïvely light. “So many self-appointed psychiatrists of so-called conspiracy theorists are increasingly forced to acknowledge that real political conspiracies occur,” wrote one. “One actually has to get into the plausible facts to distinguish [the real] (like the front of Kennedy’s head exploding on the Zapruder film), but the cheerfully condescending will argue that facts are only stand-ins for a refusal to see reality for what it is. There is a familiar name for what is expressed by this type of argument: denial.” Discussion on conspiracy forums was also … interesting. “I read a couple of the articles … exactly what you’d expect from the MSM … commenting on some of the more idiotic theories … and the ones with merit … short and dismissive,” wrote Diana in a thread on one of them, the Project Avalon message board (where every post seemed to be stitched together with ellipses). Responded Calz, “Problem being that [50 years] is almost as long as it takes documents classified for national security to be released … and proven to be truth rather than conspiracy.”

3. “Ask any Stuyvesant faculty member about them and the response is usually ‘Oh, the Cahns,’ with either a loving chuckle or an exasperated eye roll,” wrote Jada Yuan in a double profile of the two most crazily high-achieving seniors—Jack and David Cahn, who happen to be twins—at the country’s most crazily high-achieving high school (Twin Titans of Stuyvesant High,” November 25). “I thought these lads were going to be much more insufferable than they were,” wrote one reader. “More power to ’em!” praised another. And at least one self-identified classmate popped into the comments section, to add, sweetly, “I can’t help but reflect on the Cahn brothers and how much they enhanced my high school experience, never taking no for an answer and fearlessly questioning authority,” he wrote. “I was not surprised to see this article at all.”

4. “Publishing is an often incredibly frustrating culture,” confessed Daniel Menaker in an acerbic chronicle of his years as a book-publishing bigwig, excerpted from his new memoir (Adventures in ­Publishing,” November 25). “A bracing summary of life at the highest altitudes of an industry I wish I weren’t so dependent on for reading or writing,” wrote one reader at nymag.com. “Good to know that the people at the top of my ­industry are as ­vapid, air-headed and lucky as I’ve always deeply suspected them to be,” grumbled another. And Menaker himself jumped into the section after one commenter noted, “The word digital doesn’t appear anywhere on this page. ’Scuse the Pollyannaism, but publishing’s best days are ahead of you once you figure it out.” Menaker replied, “Agree that publishing will sort itself out, but I’m not sure that our attention, concentration, and immersive reading will sort themselves out. This book is short and chopped up into sections, and I came to realize that the form was partly an effect of a reading culture that seems to me to be getting more and more distracted.”

Correction: A photograph of Andy Warhol in a portfolio of images chronicling the eighties nightclub Area (The Hottest Club in Town,” November 11) should have been attributed to the photographer Peter Serling.

Send correspondence to: nymletters@nymag.com


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