Comments: Week of August 6, 2012

1. “Is America Dead?” Frank Rich asked in a cover story on the recent drumbeat of America-in-decline rhetoric and the false nostalgia of those peddling panic (Mayberry R.I.P.,” July 30). Some didn’t think that nostalgia was so rose-­colored: “While I agree that the media have once again gone overboard chasing a simplistic metaphor, for those of us who are old enough to remember ‘the good old days,’ the lack of civility and civic-mindedness is very real,” wrote one commenter at But most sided with Rich. “The ­nostalgia these right-wingers have is a fairy tale—I grew up in the fifties, and it was a time when racism and sexism ruled. Is that what they want to return to?” A third felt the imperial anxiety was really getting out of hand. “I’ve never seen so many hysterical white males in my life.” But another argued it was really Rich who had too narrow a perspective. “Interesting article. But from a global perspective, one could say that this time around, talk of American decline is not limited to American pundits and politicians … More and more people all over the world tacitly agree. Relativist explanations (it’s in the eye of the beholder) don’t really explain or account for the fact that people all over the world hold the belief that those halcyon days are over.”

2. “If you were NYMag’s piece on the TomKat divorce I’d be thinking about you right now,” wrote @danceremix of Benjamin Wallace’s first-draft history of the celebrity divorce of the century, in which he suggested Katie Holmes might not be as innocent a player as most have assumed—and Tom Cruise not as malevolent (Katie Holmes Cruise Has Left the Building,” July 30). “Katie was not a child bride,” wrote Dodai Stewart at Jezebel. “The point is this: While Tom Cruise may have seemed batshit crazy—­Scientology, couch-jumping, doing his own stunts, and remember when he got braces?—wouldn’t you expect people to say that a woman who’d marry that guy would have to be even crazier? But instead of seeing Katie as a starry-eyed psycho superfan (as you’ll recall, she told Seventeen magazine she wanted to marry Tom Cruise before they met), we think of her as a helpless, confuzzled thing, lured into beard-dom by the big bad allegedly gay movie star. We don’t accuse her of being a gold-digger, even though she’s spent oodles of Tom’s cash during the marriage while her own career fizzled.” Other readers were also convinced, at least halfway, that Cruise had been unfairly portrayed. “I hate Tom Cruise,” wrote one commenter at ­ “But that transcript of his phone conversation with Nicole Kidman actually made me feel slightly sad for the guy.”

3. “Even people who absolutely hate Martin Amis will find something with which to engage in this interview, probably because it’s about 700,000 words long. (I like it a lot!),” wrote Alex Balk, at the Awl, of our conversation with the British novelist, now living in Brooklyn (In Conversation: Martin Amis,” July 30). But readers wondered whether the outspoken author had crossed from charm into snobbery. “How eager is Marty to lay down his ­intellectual plastic: Ah, yes, Marty, too, is a cool New Yorker, he can trash Sarah Palin and Joe the Plumber just like a real New Yorker,” wrote one commenter at “Marty offers Americans the chance to be ravished by the British ­Accent—never mind that the accent ­carries gibberish in its wake.” Others thought Amis was just doing his best to keep us entertained. “The last remarks, but really the whole piece, remind me how generous Martin Amis always was with ideas; fistfuls per sentence in his best books. He always gives you the good wine, as it were. I’m delighted to learn he’s in town, adding to the temperature.”

4. “Small liberal-arts college unknowingly hires Rwandan war criminal. Or is he? Utterly fascinating read,” tweeted @instupor about a memoir by Goucher College president Sanford J. Ungar ­(Leopold’s Ghost,” July 30). Most readers saw a ­moving study in the moral ambiguities of humanitarian action—a parable that “truth is too precious,” as ­@ElizabetAmichai put it. At, though, one commenter wasn’t nearly as sympathetic. “Ungar notes that ‘none of us wanted to seem to be judging Leopold guilty prematurely, or to require him to prove his innocence.’ Yet Ungar then goes on to describe how he had Leopold fired and banned from entering the campus before he was even formally charged with any crimes. At the end of the piece, Ungar describes how he has to ‘live with serious doubts’ and ‘must … simply suspend judgment,’ but firing a man ­accused (but not, apparently, clearly guilty, as per Ungar’s own article)—­removing his income and exiling him from the campus—is not suspension of judgment in the least and seems to go directly against Ungar’s own stated goals regarding this issue and a university’s commitment to inquiry and debate over rash judgment.”

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Comments: Week of August 6, 2012