Comments: Week of September 29, 2008

1. Boris Kachka’s forensic dissection of the ailing publishing industry (The End,” September 22) prompted a number of readers to provide their own prescriptions to resuscitate the patient. Here’s one online commenter’s wish list: “Free podcasts of the first chapters of audiobooks … A Kindle that plays audiobooks and displays text synchronously. Sometimes I want to read, sometimes I want to listen … Editors that edit books as if readers didn’t have unlimited time. I’d rather buy a 100-page tightly edited book than a 500-page waste of my time.” Meanwhile, ex–Random House editor Daniel Menaker offered a corrective to the article, in the form of an SAT-style formulation. The article stated that his “departure was tied in the press to the low sales of Benjamin Kunkel’s much-ballyhooed debut novel, Indecision.” Menaker’s response? “My departure from Random House : sales of Benjamin Kunkel’s novel Indecision :: ‘linked in the press’ : accuracy.” There is some good news, however, for worried wordsmiths—and it’s called Sniplits! At least one commenter sees Sniplits as a savior of the written word. (Note: This commenter is also the inventor of Sniplits.) “I’ve always loved the long- neglected short-story form, and when I bought my first iPod, I thought, Yes! This will be perfect for listening to short stories,” the commenter writes. “Then I waited, and waited, and waited for the publishers to begin selling individual audio short stories. I finally gave up, and began publishing them myself. I launched Sniplits a few months ago with audio stories as MP3 files from about 60 authors … I hope to God I never forget that the business of Sniplits isn’t about me—it’s about stories, story lovers, and storytellers.”

2. Steven Morris of East Hampton, New York, wrote us a letter to remind us that, four years ago, he wrote us a letter. “On December 6, 2004, you published a letter I wrote,” he says—by way of pointing out its prognosticative value. We won’t print the entire letter (again), but here’s an excerpt: “ ‘The Hedge-Fund Boys’ (Get Richest Quickest,” by Steve Fishman, November 22, 2004) have not ‘been making the rest of Wall Street look like losers.’ … Most will be long gone before 2010 as the millions and billions Fishman bandies about in his piece go right down the toilet, just as most Internet stocks did.” Morris now notes that those same hedge funds are flailing (to say the least) and that, from junk bonds to credit default swaps, “investors have been invited to participate in what really has amounted to one giant Ponzi scheme perpetrated by the movers and shakers of the Street.” And last week certainly left Wall Street both moved and shaken. “As I originally wrote, most of this nonsense will be in the dustbin by 2010. My only error was in writing about the ‘millions and billions’ that would be lost. I should have written ‘billions and trillions.’ ” We look forward to another update from Morris in 2012, when we hope we’ll all be enjoying a sunnier financial outlook.

3. Once again, America’s favorite governor of Alaska dominated the Most Commented Stories at Not only did John Heilemann’s examination of her appeal (The Wal-Mart Frontier,” September 22) hit, then surpass, the coveted century mark in comments, but every mention of Palin on the site reliably set the partisan dogs to barking. Obama did manage to wrest the top spot away from Palin for a day—when our site noted that Lynn Forester de Rothschild, wife of Sir Evelyn Robert Adrian de Rothschild, had denounced Obama as an “elitist.” A commenter replied, “What is a Republican’s definition of an elitist? A half-black, half-white man who pulled himself up from a poor family in Kansas and worked so hard that he got the highest merit honors possible at Harvard, then turned down huge-paying Wall Street jobs to do grassroots work in poor neighborhoods.”

4. Robert Gregson doesn’t live in New York (he’s in Orange, Connecticut) but, like any good New Yorker, he’s got an opinion about the new façade on the Edward Durrell Stone building at Columbus Circle. “I found the comments by Jerry Saltz and Justin Davidson (Museum Date,” September 15) about as tepid as the architecture,” he writes. “The Edward Durrell Stone building was designed as a dialogue with Columbus Circle. The new façade, although neat and trendy, seems disposable. I think an opportunity to play with the E. D. Stone façade in a more ironic way was missed. Possibly facing the ends in glass and allowing the front to fend for itself would have been more fun as well as practical. The Stone building was a vivid symbol of its time. I agree that this version will not satisfy anyone.”

5. While we don’t want to distract you from enjoying the issue now in your hands, we think you’ll especially enjoy next week’s issue, which will celebrate New York Magazine’s 40th anniversary with a look back at four decades of our city’s storied history. In that spirit of celebration, we’ll point you toward New York Stories, an anthology from Random House, available now, that collects landmark writing from the magazine, including essays by Tom Wolfe, Gloria Steinem, Pete Hamill, Nora Ephron, Kurt Andersen, and more, not to mention the article that begat Saturday Night Fever and the one that vivisected Saturday Night Live. Oh, and there’s a crossword puzzle written by Stephen Sondheim. (Yes, the answers are included in the back.)

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Comments: Week of September 29, 2008