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Comments: Week of September 16, 2013

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1. “The arrival of @NYMag’s Fall Preview issue today marks the start of the rentrée”—that’s, er, French for the return to work—“and I could not be more excited,” wrote @JonathanShia on Twitter, of our annual “Fall Preview” issue (September 2–9). Leonardo DiCaprio appeared on the cover, a few months ahead of the release of the dark comedy The Wolf of Wall Street, directed by Martin Scorsese. “Cover almost made me fall off my desk chair. Hiya, Leo,” noted @correyelizabeth. “Women of my generation, we had excellent taste in our teen idols,” added @Rieur1114.

2. In the decade after 9/11, “the NYPD went even further than the federal government,” Matt Apuzzo and Adam Goldman wrote in an excerpt from their forthcoming book on the NYPD’s Demographics Unit, “pushing deeply into the private lives of New Yorkers, surveilling Muslims in their mosques, their sporting fields, their businesses, their social clubs, even their homes in a way not seen in America since the FBI and CIA monitored antiwar activists during the Nixon administration” (The NYPD Division of Un-American Activities,” September 2–9). “It’s clear that the NYPD is just the bleeding edge of the trend,” wrote Kombema at Daily Kos. “The integration of federal spying and local police departments has contributed to significant oppression of minority rights of Muslims, the systematic abuse of ‘stop and frisk,’ and the rise of a police state mentality in New York.” Other readers were also shocked by the story. “Reminds us that Stop And Frisk isn’t all that’s wrong with the NYPD,” wrote Kendra James at Racialicious. At The Atlantic, Conor Friedersdorf was similarly agitated: “There’s no doubt about the NYPD’s surveillance tactics: They’re definitely targeting innocent American citizens and legal residents. And that’s an ongoing abuse of power, even if comparatively fewer people have heard about it. After reading how the undercover officers operate it’s easy to understand why the unit would cause Muslim-­American mosque attendees, small-business owners and patrons, and students throughout the city to grow paranoid in their daily lives. This isn’t a warning about a slippery slope. It is an observation about ongoing abuse of civil liberties in America’s biggest city.” Others got sarcastic: “Targeting Americans based on their ethnic or racial characteristics violates the 14th Amendment?” wrote Kris E. Benson at Wonkette. “First of all, you have a pre-9/11 mindset. And second, they aren’t spying on regular Americans, they are spying on demographic Americans, who are probably up to no good anyways.”

3. Thomas Pynchon may be America’s most private novelist, but he’s not exactly a recluse, Boris Kachka wrote in a profile of the elusive author (P.,” September 2–9). At nymag.com, commenters debated the ethics of such an article. “This piece is stalker journalism at its worst; a hacked-together account of all the various conflations strewn about various publications over the years,” wrote one. “Dear Board of the Geek Club President,” wrote another, who disagreed, “this article in no way resembles stalking, paparazzi invasion or wild speculation … He was on The Simpsons twice and lives in NYC. He is not hiding!!!” Wrote another: “Self-mythologizing begins with mystery and ends with fiction. If Mr. Pynchon wants to remain secret, then let him. But to sneer at people for wanting to see the man behind the mask is adolescent posturing.” And another argued that the effort to unmask the author wasn’t just unethical but pointless. “Interesting piece,” he wrote. “But here’s a thing. Pynchon’s novels are full of all kinds of crazy data. Some are absolutely factual, some entirely bizarre—but most are these beautifully weird and creative amalgams of fact and fancy … Readers of Pynchon’s novels know hugely more about Pynchon the person than other readers know of their authors. Sure, not where he lives or who he sleeps with or what he does in between cans of Cherry Coke, but definitely what he’s like, what he reckons, what he’s into, what kind of dude he is. So, no offense, because this is a perfectly decent, nicely written bit of research—but it just strikes me also that there’s this quite charming redundancy to it as well. Pynchon puts everything into his books, and that’s what makes them what they are.”

Send correspondence to: nymletters@nymag.com


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