Comments: Week of June 27, 2011

1. Dan P. Lee’s depiction of the personal and legal saga of Anna Nicole Smith and her elderly husband, J. Howard Marshall II (Paw Paw and Lady Love,” June 13–20), transfixed many readers. The blog Jezebel observed that “Anna Nicole Smith was the consummate woman, if that means only the most torturous and futile elements of being female. And her quest to fit the most extreme version of the beauty ideal not only didn’t make her happy—it essentially killed her.” Mark Armstrong of the website Long­reads, guest-blogging for Mother Jones, called it “a tabloid story, retold with empathy.” “Fantastic article!” wrote one commenter. “I had followed most of this saga as it unfolded, but this piece pulls it together to create a whole much greater than the sum of the parts. The subject matter will be scoffed at by some, but I really appreciate the excellent ­journalism and attention to detail (even when many of those details are gut-­wrenching.)” “I found this piece to bring a lot of clarity to such a murky story. I had never known much of her origins or history. Like many teenage boys, I was purely interested in her originally for the titillating factor, but this piece brought to light the true dramatic irony of her stardom leading to her downfall and ultimate demise,” wrote another. The blog Above the Law called it a “nearly perfect look back” that contains “enough fascinating stuff … to puzzle over all day long.”

2. In other legal matters, Mark Jacobson’s profile of Newark defense attorney Paul Bergrin (The Baddest Lawyer in the History of Jersey,” June 13–20) left many readers somewhat stunned. As one commenter put it: “I had not heard about this case before and was taken completely by surprise with the ‘give her a hot shot’ line,” referring to a drug-using witness Bergrin allegedly suggested be made to overdose. Those who read it off a link on Reddit were similarly fascinated, calling it a “fantastic read” and hoping for more. There were also witnesses for Bergrin’s defense. One noted how he was just doing his job. “It’s sad to see someone so good at his work and so ­passionate, who strives to get the job done, go down cause [sic] of politics.” Another commenter testified to his character. “Paul and I grew up together. I knew his family and the real Paul. His wife and children lived thru the government harassment of him while he stood up against them to defend friends that he believed deserved help … I understand that there may be things that I don’t know about how he practiced law. But neither do all your readers who continue to write about things they do not know. I just hope he can get a fair trial and not get convicted in your magazine.” Another commenter, who apparently knew something firsthand of Bergrin’s legal facility, wrote: “What losers are trying to get famous off of Paul’s demise? Someone must have a real hard-on for him … Hands-down best attorney in Newark! Not one attorney can touch him!

3. Kathryn Schulz’s essay about the literary deployment of the word fuck (Ode to a Four-Letter Word, And I Don’t Mean ‘Okay,’ June 13–20), which was inspired by the children’s book Go the Fuck to Sleep, inspired many colorful responses. Some were disapproving and stated a preference for a more conventional book review. ­“Pardon my French, but what the fuck has become of your book coverage in the last few months? … It’s bad enough that I have to read an article about a dumb publicity stunt of a book, but at least let me read about the book.” Other commenters disagreed with Schulz’s defense of the use of the word itself. As one put it, “It’s lazy, ­vulgar, boring, rude, and cheap to use ­profanity. Worst of all: It’s ugly.” Many others praised the piece, with Blog the 20 saying “I’m on Schulz’s side. People who outright dismiss any work of art using profanity are basically doing so to get their rocks off on their own illusion of superiority” and Blog Wanderlust calling it an “excellent essay.” Or as a commenter put it: “Loved your article. The ability to parse and ­discuss a phrase like F-u-c-k you, you f-u-c-k-ing f-u-c-k is not laziness; it is a love of ­language and parts of speech.”

4. The announcement that New York had signed on with the agency ICM to help get films and TV shows made based on the magazine’s journalism caused several bloggers to become armchair producers. Alyssa Rosenberg at Thinkprogress wanted to greenlight ­Rachel Taddeo’s article about the “half-hooker economy” in the wake of the Tiger Woods scandal (Rachel Uchitel Is Not a Madam,” April 12, 2010) as well as ­Vanessa Grigoriadis’s story about the website Gawker (Everybody Sucks,” October 22, 2007). The Village Voice’s Runnin Scared blog put forward “Travis the Chimp as a ­future Oscar winner,” referring to Dan P. Lee’s tale of the tragic relationship between a monkey and his owner (Travis the Menace,” January 31, 2011). And the New York Observer thought his “Paw Paw and Lady Love” would make a good biopic, as well as suggesting a ­“Cosmopolitans-at-Moomba period piece” based on Grigoriadis’s profile of several young publicists (Welcome to the Dollhouse,” December 7, 1998).

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Comments: Week of June 27, 2011