January 12, 2004

Bush League
While it’s certainly possible for George W. Bush’s groomers to manipulate his image via clandestine excursions to Iraq, it’s another thing altogether for Karl Rove and crew to manipulate the economic landscape for political purposes, as Michael Wolff suggests [“This Media Life: Reversal of Fortune,” December 15]. Wolff either lacks any semblance of rudimentary economic understanding or is so blinded by his loathing of Bush that he could make such a preposterous assertion. I suspect both.
—Dan Holland, Manhattan

Gotta Give It Up
It was bad enough that after Annie Hall, women of Diane Keaton’s generation had to endure certain male critics’ pronouncements on how Ms. Keaton was the embodiment of the contemporary, urban woman. They never bothered to question if women actually appreciated having such a dizzy, blithering idiot represent them. Most women I knew found it infuriating. Thirty years later, we have to hear it again from Peter Rainer [“Movies: Acting Her Age,” December 15]. No doubt male audiences love Diane Keaton. But she does not represent the majority of women, nor is she a modern heroine. I applaud her creativity and unique sense of style, but I deplore the goofy characterization that so many find endearing.
—Rita Perez, Manhattan

Border patrol
Amy Sohn’s “A Few Screws Loose” [“Naked City,” December 15], about men’s fascination with beautiful, crazy women, barely scratched the surface of one of New York City’s most prevalent and least understood illnesses. Most of these women suffer from a psychiatric condition known as Borderline Personality Disorder. Borderlines are indeed able to perform as passionate lovers with virtual strangers, and then quickly lose all interest in them. Their moods and relationships fluctuate like roller coasters. Combine this with a generalized impulsivity and a basic inability to control spasms of inappropriate, intense anger, and it’s easy to understand why these women may want to chop up an ex’s furniture with a hatchet. Crazy, yes. Incomprehensible? Hardly.
—Harvey M. Berman, White Plains, N.Y.

Psycho Celebs
While I appreciated Daphne Merkin’s psychiatric insights into Michael Jackson [“Michael on the Couch,” December 8], she underestimates the effect of celebrity on human behavior. Having treated celebrities for three decades, I have repeatedly witnessed what I call SAG, or Situationally Acquired Grandiosity. (My apologies to the Screen Actors Guild.) If celebrities dictate fashion, then how can celebrity misbehavior ever be abnormal? When individuals become celebrated, society does not merely allow them to break the rules, it demands it. The bigger the celebrity, the bigger the rule that can be broken. No celebrity is bigger than Michael Jackson.
—Isaac S. Herschkopf, Manhattan

Correction: Due to an editing error, a caption on page 90 of the December 22–29 issue (“The Place to Be,” by John Homans and Mark Jacobson) mistakenly identified Lukas Haas as Tobey Maguire. New York regrets the error.

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January 12, 2004