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Comments: Week of December 9, 2013

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1. “Hollywood lived in fear of Finke,” wrote Benjamin Wallace in a story detailing the disastrous, delectable, contentious, short-lived business partnership between industry-gossip power broker Nikki Finke of Deadline Hollywood and newcomer bigwig Jay Penske, the entrepreneur who purchased her site and pledged to support it (Free Nikki Finke,” December 2). “An epic, beautifully told story. Have it for lunch, it’s delicious,” tweeted David Carr of the New York Times. “Operatic story made me burst out laughing a dozen separate times,” wrote his colleague Michael Barbaro. “Ho. Ly. Shitballs,” Foster Kamer of Complex exclaimed. Tweeted Delia Ephron, “Sometimes you read things and your mouth is just hanging open.” Others were more put off than pulled in by the gossip and the power of those who trade on it. “How does anyone in Hollywood put up with anyone else in Hollywood?” asked Heidi N. Moore of The Guardian. And the reclusive Finke herself, annoyed by the story’s accompanying photo-­illustrations (of her ranting over the phone to movie ­execs), tweeted: “In 2012 a NYC magazine called for a Hollywood boycott of me. Now in 2013 that same outlet runs fictional illustrations of me. #Tiresome.

2. “The harshest critics of testing have argued that students learn best from a well-rounded curriculum, and that the pressure to get the correct answer on a high-stakes test leads to cheating and alienation,” wrote Robert Kolker, profiling a handful of elementary-school students (and their families) who have begun protesting more aggressive school testing by opting out of the tests themselves (The Opt-Outers,” December 2). “This article is a brilliant testament to the mismanagement of education reform,” wrote one commenter on nymag.com. “While the decision to raise standards in order to make America’s youth more competitive with overseas competition is understandable, this approach borders on the ludicrous. And a pity is that in the future the public will be all the more cynical when new attempts are made to change something that so badly needs changing.” Another agreed: “If you want to do something good for your kids, get out of NYC and go to a place where there’s a sense of reality and kids get the individual attention they need at that age. In fact, get out of the U.S. entirely because the almost religious focus on standardized testing at such an early age has reached obnoxious proportions.” But a few readers piped up to defend testing and the reforms that have emphasized it in recent decades. “My experience has been thumbs up,” wrote a mother of three. “Our 4th grade teacher cranked up the rigor in her class. She didn’t do this by having kids do test prep packets for months, she did this by engaging them in meaningful, rich content studies. If a teacher is making kids fill out bubbles for months, then he/she is a poor educator. If you don’t want your kids to take tests, opt out, but don’t impose your philosophy on everyone else.

3. “Three weeks before Lolita arrived in bookstores, [Dorothy] Parker published a story—in The New Yorker, of all places—titled ‘Lolita,’ and it centered on an older man, a teen bride, and her jealous mother,” wrote Galya Diment in a literary detective story about the mid-­century writers whose work overlapped, it seems, for a moment (Mrs. Parker and the Butterfly Effect,” December 2). “How could this have come to pass?” Diment asked. “She could have just heard the basics over too many cocktails and spun out her own version, trying a new style as an experiment,” suggested one reader on nymag.com. Another, identifying himself as the head of the Dorothy Parker Society, rose up to defend his hero, arguing that Diment was making a lot of fuss over nothing. “Am I the only one to not see that this article rings false throughout?” he wrote. “My beef is that she has completely misread the ‘Lolita’ written by Parker. It is a story about a single, unhappy, woman, a character Parker used many times, going back to 1923. Lolita in Parker’s story is not a preteen but a grown woman, while Nabokov was writing about a child. The purpose of Diment’s detective work isn’t clear, but it did remind many that Parker was still writing good work into her sixties, something Nabokov didn’t do.”

Send correspondence to: nymletters@nymag.com


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