Dan Walks the Plank


Thursday, June 11, 2009

You may be interested in reading Dan’s latest interview with internet comics gadfly Chris Mautner, over at our Eisner-nominated rival, Comic Book Resources. Here Dan is on the effect I’ve predicted to him will be the result of some of his recent Comics Comics posts:

Can you peel back the curtain a little on Art Out of Time 2?

My main goal with Art Out of Time 2 is by writing reviews of other people’s books about history … to make myself as much of a whipping boy as possible. I want Jog coming after me, I want Spurgeon. I want to feel like I want to die when it comes out. That’s my goal.

In the rest of the interview, Dan actually discusses the Art Out of Time sequel without ducking the question, and also talks about recently announced new books from C.F. and Brian Chippendale, a Wilco collaboration, and future plans for PictureBox in general.

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30 Responses to “Dan Walks the Plank”
  1. Chris Mautner says:

    Gosh, I've never been called a gadfly before. I feel so empowered. 🙂

  2. T. Hodler says:

    What does "gadfly" mean, anyway? I hope that wasn't an insult! It sounds cool. I meant it in a good way no matter what. (I should really look up some of these words every now and again.)

  3. looka says:

    There I was jibbering about how cool it would be to see you doing some Jesse Marsh material. And WHAM! There is going to be a story in ART OUT OF TIME 2. FREAKY FRAK great.

  4. Dan Nadel says:

    A few things:

    1) I take a grim joy in imagining Tim reading yet another interview with me and chuckling, gently shaking his head and thinking, "I am SO glad I'm not Dan."

    2) I should try not to make jokes in interviews because, while I know Tim and Frank will think they're sort of funny, most people won't.

    3) Yes, Jesse Marsh rules.

    4) Spurgeon linked to the interview today and, curiously, I think, reiterated that he thinks it's unseemly for me to criticize other historical project. I have to say, I just don't get that. Historians review other historians books all the time. Novelists review other novelists. Etc. etc. That I'm also a publisher does throw a weird twist in, but, look, no one is "pure" and there is a long tradition of editors/publishers/curators also writing criticism. So, while it might be impolitic, it's certainly not "unseemly", which seems to suggest a kind of immoral angle to it.

    There needs to be a lively debate about how comics history is being constructed. Up until recently, there really hasn't been one, but with all the publishing activity going on now it's really necessary to engage in a sometimes unpleasant discussion about what kind of standards should be applied to the study and publication of comics history. Otherwise "we" will just keep spinning "our" wheels. I for one have a lot invested intellectually (lord knows not financially) in that debate as a writer and curator. I think it would be "unseemly" not to participate, not to speak my mind. I wish Spurgeon (who, I might add, I consider a friend and wise colleague, not to mention a great writer about comics) would explain to me why "it's weird and unseemly" for someone in my position in any field to engage in critical writing about topics within his or her field. Is the idea that only someone totally uninvested in a field can actually write about it? I just don't get it, is all.

    Me, I would welcome, a critique of my Mazzucchelli show from a fellow curator. And I'd welcome a critique of, say, Art Out of Time, by someone like Gary Groth. I don't see why this stuff isn't up for grabs.

  5. Rob Clough says:


    I don't know why Tom considers what you do unseemly and certainly don't wish to speak for him. I certainly think there's room for tough talk and critiques of other historical projects, even (and perhaps especially) by those who are hip-deep in creating them.

    That said, I have personally found some of your critiques on the blog to be a bit hit-and-run. What I mean by that is that they felt like visceral, emotional rejections of someone's work rather than a more considered critique. I felt an almost seething anger from you at Craig Yoe's Boody Rogers project that to me felt less like a (justly harsh) critique and more a frustrated expression of "You're doing it wrong!"

    Given, as you say, the overall lack of rigor and standards regarding this area of comics, it may well be up to you to invent them, at least for yourself. That is, explain and justify your standards for why all historical projects should meet a certain minimum standard that you propose.

    I realize that this may be a completely unfair idea to suggest and you're obviously free to critique/slam other projects as you so wish…but I also think that you're in a unique position to establish a new set of standards for historical projects as well as the parameters of the debate. You're not only a critic, you're putting your money where your mouth is.

  6. Anonymous says:

    I love Tom Spurgeon as much as anyone, but he's really out to lunch on this one. The fact is, some of the best and most cutting reviews in comics history have been from a publisher attacking other people's books: i.e., Gary Groth attacking Eisner's The Dreamer, which was published by Kitchen Sink, a Fantagraphics rival.

    I'd love to hear what Dan thinks about various comics reprint projects.

    As for a savage critique of Art Out of Time — let me think about it. There were problems with the book. Jeet

  7. Inkstuds says:

    I think its time for a comics critic cage match.

    It is interesting for Tom to take that stand, considering his own tenure at TCJ and academic experience.

    How about you guys come back on the Inkstuds and argue it out.

  8. Dan Nadel says:

    @ Rob: A fair suggestion, though I'm more interested in discussing standards in dialogue with other critics in order to come to some kind of consensus than I am in dictating them from on high. But, nevertheless, explaining what I'm looking for is a good idea. And yes, I was pissed about the Boody book, no doubt about it.

    @ Jeet: Ummmm, how 'bout just emailing me that savage critique! Ha ha ha.

  9. Tom Spurgeon says:

    I'm talking about a very specific kind of writing, Dan, not the general act of creators or publishers writing about art.

    Let me put it to you like this:

    Despite the fact they might share some problematic issues, to me there's a difference between Gary writing about Eisner and writing, say, explicitly about the way he feels D&Q is handling Moomin or IDW is handling Little Orphan Annie. I'm interested in the first, but I'm not so interested in the second/third.

    I might be interested in reading a curator write about your Mazzucchelli exhibit, but not so much if that curator was the person who might have done the show had the Cartoon Art Museum done it, or who is working with a Mazzucchelli show of their own.

    I know when I write about comics, I can't write about a lot of stuff because it hews too closely to stuff I'm working on as a creator. I'm sort of working on a Kirby thing right now — as a result, I don't think I'm the guy to review Mark Evanier's Kirby book. I'm responding to that Kirby book in other ways — if I were to turn around and write a review or try to muster up some piece of criticism, I couldn't come to that book as honestly or with fresh eyes the way someone else can. When I was writing the newspaper comic strip, that probably would have been a bad time for me to review Boondocks.

    Does that make sense?

    I mean, there's so much out there for you to talk about, why do you need to write about work in which you have an interest that's different than critical interest?

    I also do think it's sort of gross. I could probably write a fun-to-read piece about Rich Johnston's new site or Journalista, but it just seems wrong to me. Sorry, can't help it. I'll never be Marilyn Bethke.

    So basically, your Boody review reminded me less of Gary's tightrope act with Eisner and Kitchen Sink than it did The Comics Journal's series on on-line comics journalism a couple of years back that essentially and shockingly concluded these sites were lacking compared to The Comics Journal.

  10. Dan Nadel says:

    Well, I guess we'll just have to disagree, Tom. I don't think I writing a piece about Fantagraphics' handling of the Boody book. I was writing about Craig Yoe's sloppiness as a historian. You and I just have different standards for appropriateness, I guess. I think that it's all the better to write about a subject I have an additional interest in, and, given your knowledge, all the better for you to discuss a Kirby book. But, so it goes…

  11. Tom Spurgeon says:

    yeah, we really disagree on this one, including how best to describe your Boody piece

  12. Anonymous says:

    cage match
    cage match!

  13. Tom Spurgeon says:

    Oh, I just figured out a better example when I was standing in line at the grocery store wondering what they've done to Archie. It'd be like if instead of writing about Eisner, Gary wrote about what Kitchen did to its Crumb books.

  14. Dan Nadel says:

    I just don't buy it. Your contention is that I'm somehow writing about Fantagraphics' handling of Boody Rogers. I'm not. I'm writing about Yoe's handling of Rogers. It doesn't matter who published it (well, it would matter if we shared the same editor and publicist, as we do at Abrams) at all. Certainly Gary G. didn't perceive it at all as a criticism of Fantagraphics. It's weird that you keep conflating the two. And, furthermore, the analogy of Groth and Kitchen doesn't even work. In no universe am I remotely a publishing peer of Gary's, as Kitchen actually was. I'm a tiny, one-person operation that's been around 7 years and I've even edited 2 books for Gary. Plus, Gary could totally beat me up.

  15. T. Hodler says:

    I thought I'd put a link to the review in question here, just for the sake of convenience for anyone who's following this, and wants to decide for themselves on the matter.

    Personally, while I don't agree with each and every criticism Dan make (not including more info on Stanton, for example — Dan unfortunately led with his weakest arguments), I think it seems pretty fair and above-board to me, especially since Dan went out of his way to make the ART OUT OF TIME context clear, actually praises Fantagraphics for the production and design work, and gives four examples of recent comparable projects that he thinks succeed (two of which are published by Fantagraphics).

    It's not unusual in the wider reviewing world to have "rival" experts criticize each others' works, as long as the potential conflict of interest is disclosed — and since Abrams published ART OUT OF TIME, not PictureBox, the Gary Groth comparison seems a little off in any case. That would be more like Dan publicly criticizing Fantagraphics's JIMBO books or something, since Dan does actually publish Gary Panter. And yeah, that would seem a little weird if he did that.

    (I also think the Groth/Kitchen/Crumb example in particular isn't a good comparison, since Crumb is obviously alive and active and capable of serving his own artistic interests, while Boody Rogers's legacy is now in the hands of others. )

    I have more thoughts on this, but not the time or energy to keep going. And really, I think it's never a bad idea to question this stuff anyway, so I'm glad Tom brought it up, even if I mostly disagree with him.

  16. T. Hodler says:

    Although I should say that I agree with a lot of the examples Tom cites, even if I don't think they're quite the same as what Dan is doing. Because, like, yeah, it would be unseemly for Tom to flat out review Journalista.

    On the other hand, if Dirk Deppey wrote a book about comics-news blogging, I think it would not only be appropriate for Tom to review it, but on top of that, he would be one of only a small handful of people who could really do so authoritatively.

    I dunno.

  17. Tom Spurgeon says:

    Tim, I agree with you but would ask you to remember that I wasn't putting Dan on trial at Nerd Hague, I'm just reserving the right to find it gross. I'm not sure how rigorous my argument has to be.

    Dan, I still disagree with you, but look at what you're saying in that last point: it actually reinforces my source of discomfort. Not only are you a publisher with a natural, obvious, potential interest in Boody Rogers, you're an historian and anthology editor with competing interests in the subject matter and how it's viewed. Triple-yuck.

  18. Dan Nadel says:

    Ok, I give up since we're just talking past each other. I have no interest as a publisher in Boody Rogers. I'm not sure how that was implied in anything I wrote. And I just don't find anything I wrote at all distasteful. I just don't get it. Oh well. You can always put me on trial, sure. No probs.

  19. gary groth says:

    I tend to agree with Dan in this argument: there shouldn’t be anything off-limits to a critic (just as there shouldn’t be anything off-limits to an artist); and I too don’t understand Spurg’s objections or the weird proposition that there should be an elaborate list of rules and regulations set up to establish appropriateness parameters that critics should adhere to. There are ALWAYS conflicts of interest (or, more often than not, harmonies of interest), whether they’re economic, cultural, social, or personal and my general philosophy about this is that anyone should be able to write about anything he damned well pleases and let the chips fall where they may. Critiques should rise and fall on their own merits and any half educated reader with a modicum of wherewithal should be able to determine, by reading between the lines as it were, if the reviewer has real insight fueled by dispassionate passion (how’s that for an oxymoron?) or some corrupting ulterior motive. And if a reader can’t do that, no critique is going to prove intellectually or morally useful to him, anyway.

    I’m especially puzzled by the kind of dainty critical nit-pickery found in this example of Spurg’s:

    “I might be interested in reading a curator write about your Mazzucchelli exhibit, but not so much if that curator was the person who might have done the show had the Cartoon Art Museum done it, or who is working with a Mazzucchelli show of their own.”

    Why would it make the hypothetical curator’s critical comments any less potentially insightful if he were putting his own Mazzuchelli exhibit together or had even been rejected from putting on the one he’s reviewing — rather than more insightful? True, if his critique is brutal, brilliant, it could still be dismissed as sour grapes, but that’s part of the game and if one wants to dismiss a critic’s comments, there are always the generic arguments with which to do so, mainstays over the years — professional jealousy and celebrity envy being the ones that come to mind immediately.

    (There are all kinds of pitfalls the editor of a book review needs to be mindful of —reasonably explicated in Gail Pool’s Faint Praise: The Art of Book Reviewing in America, a book that’s not good enough to recommend) but they have mostly to do with appearances and “balance,” and not the legitimacy of a critic’s opinions, per se.)

    And why do I never see the inverse practice complained about? How many reviewers review books by artists they pal around with at conventions, gab with at bars, or go bowling with? I’m willing to bet Tom’s given plenty of favorable reviews to artists he’s hung out with at cons and whose company he enjoys. This is probably far more pernicious than the occasional negative review by a “rival” writer, curator, or publisher. I wonder how many polite encomiums are written, not out of any honest or passionate feeling, but because it’s unpleasant to be confronted by a mopey artist at an SPX cocktail party.

    Spurg’s example of not writing about Evanier’s Kirby book because he’s ‘working on a Kirby thing” (whatever that means) is perfectly reasonable; that’s the kind of judgment call every critic has to make; if he doesn’t think he can be honest about a particular piece of work or thinks that his opinion will be compromised, he shouldn’t write about it. But that’s a highly personal decision that should be made by the critic (or an editor) and not extrapolated into some sort of more generalized Miss Manners’ Guide to Critical Etiquette. I think Tom should feel free to write about anything he wants to as long as he thinks he can do it honestly.

    I can’t help but think that the tenuousness of Tom’s argument is reflected in his 12 year old critical vocabulary. Tom, what’s with that? The decision to write about certain books is “gross”? Triple-yuck?

    By the way, I had no problem with Dan’s critique of our Boody Rogers book. Without commenting on the specific points Dan made, I thought it fell well within the boundaries of serious critical discourse (i.e., it wasn’t stupid, petty, or irrelevant).

  20. Tom Spurgeon says:

    Thanks for sounding off, Gary, but I think you miss the point in a few places.

    First, I'm not proposing an elaborate set of rules and regulations. I'm not proposing anything that I'm aware of. All I *could* be proposing is not writing about stuff in which you have or have had a professional interest because that interest might compete with your critical inquiry. Is that elaborate? It doesn't seem all that elaborate.

    Second, I thought I was pretty clear in copping to the multiple biases out there that might influence critical writing. I agree with you that many are worse, and certainly many of the ones you mention are more common. If I made some argument that "competing professional interest" is the only bias that exists or the worst kind that exists or the most frequent kind that exists, I'd like to rescind that argument. I don't think I did, though.

    The fifth-grade language thing: I'm typing this like mad while between tasks at work, "yuck" communicates "I find this slightly distasteful" in four letters, and I hope it subliminally reminds people this is a personal reaction I'm unpacking, not an argument of logic I'm advancing or an agenda I'm pressing.

    Also: Kirby thing = thing about Kirby. That's enough to get the pertinent point across, and you ably demonstrate this in your reply.

    I think maybe the core of our disagreement can be found in your fourth paragraph, where you suggest that an imaginary brilliant Mazzucchelli critique by our friend the imaginary competing curator could be DISMISSED as sour grapes.

    I would say this is true, and share your disdain for this.

    But I'd also suggest our curator's imaginary critique could actually BE sour grapes — or, as I've tried to explain via dainty nitpickery, be a piece that's driven or influenced by competing impulses, any of which or combination of which could get in the way of more directly engaged inquiry.

    My personal experience and observations have led me to believe that I'm an unreliable critic on certain things. This includes but is not limited to things in which I currently have a professional interest or things in the past in which I had a significant professional interest. While I don't suggest everyone believe as I do, although that would be awesome, my beliefs are my own and they're going to shape my reactions to what I read. It did here, and now I feel I've explained it to death.

  21. plackbus says:

    damn, is it gonna rain all spring this year or are we going to get some nice sunny days? this is my year to get a tan!

  22. Gary says:

    Hi, Tom. Forgive me for taking this at least semi-seriously —I’m not interested in hearing you explain yourself to death— but I think you’re dead wrong (pun intended) and wanted to at least explain why. Forgive the prolixity — having just finished this, I realize its length is pretty non-internettish (a twitterer I’m not, but you knew that; I’m old school).

    Ooops. This post won't even be accepted because it's too long, so I'll make this PART I:

    (First of all, and parenthetically, and if you’re not proposing anything, what are you doing? And when you say you COULD be proposing something, what does that mean? Like in an alternative universe? C’mon, man, live dangerously: man up, propose something, and then defend it.)

    I think this began with you commenting on what you considered the impropriety of Dan criticizing our Yoe-edited Boody Rogers collection:

    “…I'd still think it was weird and slightly unseemly if he jumped on-line to review similar archival projects.”

    “Weird” is a nerd word (i.e., doesn’t really mean anything), but “slightly unseemly” seems to carry a little moral baggage, albeit of a prissy sort. Still, it appears as though you’re proposing that unseemly behavior not be encouraged and you personally would disapprove of it. You also appear to be offering this as a general proposition rather than just some personal Spurgeonesque quirk; otherwise, why waste our time by mentioning it in public?

    "First, I'm not proposing an elaborate set of rules and regulations. I'm not proposing anything that I'm aware of. All I *could* be proposing is not writing about stuff in which you have or have had a professional interest because that interest might compete with your critical inquiry. Is that elaborate? It doesn't seem all that elaborate."

    It’s not elaborate, it’s vague and virtually meaningless. In your previous post you were splitting some petty fine hairs about what was and wasn’t appropriate for a professional to write about:

    • My writing about Will Eisner was OK even though Eisner was published by a competitor, but my writing about how D&Q “is handling” Moomin or Little Orphan Annie is out of bounds;

    • A gallery curator could write about a Mazzuchelli exhibit but not if he had been in the running to do it or was working on a Mazzuchelli show of his own;

    • The Journal can’t publish a critique of web sites because web sites are sort of like magazines (or something like that);

    • Dan can’t criticize a book edited by Craig Yoe because they’ve both edited anthologies of old comics material and they’re both historians (or something like that)

    It certainly sounds like you’re proposing a hierarchy of Do’s ad Don’t’s here that has to be navigated and adjudicated and, based on the examples, is a thicket of what is and isn’t appropriate. I could review the CONTENTS of Moomin and Little Orphan Annie but not the PACKAGING? Print magazines can’t review websites? Web sites can’t review print magazines?

  23. Gary says:

    PART II:

    But, what constitutes a professional interest that “might” compete with one’s critical inquiry? Practically anything. Or maybe nothing, depending on what’s going on the the critic’s mind. Historians obviously write books that could be perceived as mutually competitive, which means no historian could review another historian’s book — which would leave, what, non-historians to review the work of historians? Every artist theoretically competes with every other artist, which would exclude any artist from writing about his peers (or even the dead, since the work of dead authors can compete with work by the living). Isn’t every book you review on Comics Reporter published by a potential advertiser?

    But in the real world, historians review the work of other historians all the time — and sometimes quite acrimoniously. This is as it should be, I think. In the current issue of the NY Review of Books, to take the most recent example I just happened to notice, there’s an exchange between two historians —one disgruntled over a review of his book (David S. Reynolds) answered by the reviewer, also an historian, Daniel Howe; Reynolds’ letter begins: “In his smugly dismissive review of Walking Giant: America in the Age of Jackson, Daniel Walker Howe uses a smokescreen of cavils to avoid confronting my book’s conclusions, which clash with his recent book, What Hath God Wrought.” Change the names and it reads: “In his smugly dismissive review of Boody Rogers, Dan Nadel criticizes the book because it’s not like his book, Art Out of Time.” Obviously, the NY Review, after giving space to both authors, thought that its readers were smart enough to determine for themselves who had the better argument. This doesn’t prove that historians shouldn’t review historians, but quite the opposite: the public sphere is a battleground of ideas and everything’s fair game. Oddly enough, I just read a review of A Jury of Her Peers (by Elaine Showalter) by someone named Sarah Churchwell; the last paragraph of the review begins: “Showalter Is professor emeritus at Princeton where I both studied with her and taught for her.” Ooops! Sounds like an experience that could “compete with your critical inquiry.” Yet the review seemed perfectly competent to me and he Manchester Guardian (in which it appeared) didn’t seem to think it represented a compromising conflict, despite the fact that the student’s perception of the author she’s reviewing must’ve been affected, for good or ill, by working with her earlier.

    My point is that this occurs routinely in the real world and, indeed, it would be hard for it not to unless reviewers were shut-ins who had no other professional commitments in the publishing or academic arenas and no potential “competing” interests —‘ which is some sort of Platonic ideal that isn’t going to happen in comics or anywhere else.

    It’s one thing to admonish reviewers to search their conscience in order to determine whether they’re not an “unreliable critic on certain things”; that seems obvious and redundant to me. Of course reviewers should do this as a matter of routine. Presumably Dan already did that before he criticized Craig Yoe, and will do it in the future if he chooses to write about other books edited by comics historians. But, that’s different from saying that there should be some sort of codifiable guidelines by which one writer can’t review another writer’s work — especially in the writer’s own blog! (Admittedly, it’s slightly different in, say, a magazine where the editor has limited space and a pool of critics to draw from. Luckily, this won’t prove to be a practical moral conundrum anyone in the real world will have to worry about much longer.)

  24. Tom Spurgeon says:

    Gary, you're largely arguing with yourself at this point.

    I'm not proposing anything, even if you think I should be for the sake of manliness or whatever. I had a reaction. I was asked to explain it. I explained it. That's why I'm here. You can infer that there's a moral prescription in my use of the word unseemly, but you have to labor like a motherfucker to get from my unpacking a personal reaction to "some sort of codifiable guidelines by which one writer can’t review another writer’s work." Good God, man.

    I'm aware that historians engage each other's work. I personally tend not to enjoy those pieces. I always imagine the pissy letter in the next issue: so boring. I think historians best respond by writing better history, not by hashing it out in the letters pages of the NYROB. Yet I also recognize such discussions can be valuable for certain people, and I recognize others disagree with me entirely.

    In this case, I don't think Dan was engaging the history one historian to another. He was criticizing Yoe's *rigor* as a historian. He wasn't offering a competing view, not to my eye. He sounded to me like a guy that had an interest in Rogers pounding someone in the kidneys who had a competing interest. So I piped up.

    Does that make his criticism wrong? No. Do I still wish that someone else had written that article or that Dan had written about the Shuster book as his example? Yeah.

    It's not about bias. If I were arguing about bias while criticizing fellow Eisner nominee, critic and historian Dan Nadel, that would be clownish. Potential bias is unavoidable in most fields and certainly is in comics. I reject outright any construction that has me supporting the view that critics can't write about the work of other critics.

    Declining to critically engage over something in which you have a direct competing interest seems to me to negotiate the issue of bias and potential bias in a simple, clear and effective way. There's some nuance there, because it's not exactly macho, but it's not exactly complicated.

    This is what I mean when I talk about why I think your Eisner piece was easier to take than if you had written about Kitchen's Crumb stuff. In writing your Eisner piece, you may have been operating out of anti-Kitchen or anti-Eisner bias, I honestly have no idea. But I think that's ameliorated by the fact you could critically engage with Eisner's work as its own thing. You're a disciplined critic with an incisive mind; the results were not only valuable but I think had the integrity of clarity when it comes to Eisner's work. If you had talked about Kitchen's Crumb offerings, I think it would have been much harder if not impossible for you to come at it as something other than Crumb's other publisher.

    There's no reason Terry Beatty's girlfriend couldn't be 100% right about Terry Beatty, but that doesn't mean we didn't giggle and second-guess her writing in. Writing a Stan Lee book isn't the same as sleeping with Stan Lee — I assume not — but it's specific and invested and I think worth its own consideration.

    I could write a fine review of The Beat, and if I were driven to do so I would. I might even publish it. For the most part, though, I suspect it would be difficult for me to be fair and insightful rather than, say, vindictive and funny. That doesn't mean I won't crab at Heidi if we're on a panel, or object to things in her comments thread. Just that I'd avoid a longer review.

    But seriously, even if I wrote a 100 percent awesome, non-biased, insightful piece on The Beat of the kind that shook the heavens and changed the way the people that read it looked at art and expression for the rest of their lives, I'd fully expect 90 percent of the people reading it to roll their eyes at some point and some to skip it entirely. In the end, I don't think that's an unreasonable price to pay to do that kind of thing. I'm not suggesting a code, nor would I ever. Dan can write a book called "Duty to Boody: Craig Yoe Is A Bad Historian" if he wants. And then I can have my reaction: http://is.gd/17nxU

  25. Frank Santoro says:


  26. Evan says:

    I interrupt this senses-shattering issue discussion to say that the Evanier book on Kirby was awful, just about all one could expect from someone who was an anointed member of the CBG round table. If Tom won't say it, somebody ought to.

    Thanks for your time.

    Please resume fighting.

  27. Tom Spurgeon says:

    You know, one of the weird things about talking stuff out on the Internet is that it the length of time and number of column inches you spend on hashing something out, not to mention any lively language used, can be interpreted as a measure of how one feels about the argument or the arguers. I'd get beat up for either Dan or Gary, they are admirable men whom it is my pleasure to know, and please don't think otherwise. (I got two e-mails.)

  28. Gary says:

    "Gary, you're largely arguing with yourself at this point."

    Hell, man, what can I do? There's nobody left!

    A couple quick points:

    • My crack about manning up was a joke (not a proposition). I don't want anyone to think that Spurg isn't manly enough as is.

    • Beyond enthralling and amusing me personally, public intellectual argumentation serves the greater good of laying out the most well articulated contrasting positions over issues of minor and major import that civilized people care about — politics, art, religion, journalism, etc., which in turn allows the informed public to weigh those positions against their own and refine —or reinforce— their own orientation. This has a pretty storied history in the past and still continues today, even in our somewhat intellectually diminished circumstances, with people like Christopher Hitchens and Gary Wills slugging it out with their opponents when challenged. I'm sorry to hear Tom finds this "so boring"; I think it's the life blood of our intellectual life and lament that there's so much less of it now than there was even 20, 30, 40 years ago.

    • Admittedly, if Dan's only defender had been his girlfriend, I think she and Dan might be open to ridicule no matter how impressive her arguments were.

    • I'm not exactly sure, but I think Spurg was saying, in that last short post, that there's no personal animosity being displayed here, and I'd echo that. I like Dan and Tom, I just agree with Dan on this issue. I'll try to disagree with Dan next week so I keep it all fair and balanced.

  29. Tom Spurgeon says:

    I like and value public discourse and I swear I said as much in my last response.

    I just specifically find the "review by competing author" followed by "pissy letter in next issue" followed by "grumpy rejoinder" sequence to be played out, predictable and boring. You could probably swap the proper nouns out and run the same one mad lib style for a couple of years without anyone noticing.

    Smarter people than I am disagree, admittedly, and better editors and writers than me take part in them all the time.

  30. Alan David Doane says:

    Boy, I miss the old Blood and Thunder.

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