Wednesday, July 12, 2006

crazy vampire doctor and his blown-up house

I'm not sure if this awesome story made it out of New York and I'd hate for you folks not lucky enough to be here to miss it. Precis: an Eastern-European immigrant, Dr. Bartha, marries, moves to America, buys a house, succeeds. Has two little girls. House appreciates in value. It's the American dream!

However. (Cue the ominous music.) Things begin to go sour between the doctor and his wife. Husband is dark, angry, abusive. His harrassment includes decorating the house with swastikas. Wife, whose Dutch Jewish family was persecuted in Nazi-occupied Holland, cannot stand it anymore and moves with her daughters to a tiny apartment in Washington Heights. Begins divorce proceedings. House is valued at $12 million. Wife feels entitled to part of that money. Judge agrees.

Dr. Bartha says, Over my dead body. And, with a consistency I frankly find refreshing, next thing you know, Dr. Bartha's charred body is being dragged from the 62nd street rubble. Not dead, though -- those who want to die never do. They end up wasting away, increasingly bitter and frail, until their expiration comes not as relief but as the ironic nail in the coffin. (Viz., Dorothy Parker.) Besides, in my professional opinion, Dr. Bartha is a vampire, and it takes more than some gas and brick to kill one of those.

The other great spat currently accesible over the internet is between Katha Pollit and Ana Marie Cox. As you may or may not be aware, Cox panned Pollit's new book last weekend in the NYT book review. Pollit responded today with an Op-Ed: "Thank You for Hating My Book." Now you might think these intelligent, talented, professional women were arguing about the state of feminism in this country. The second wave vs. the third wave! The old vs. the young! The rational vs. the sexy! The past vs. the future! In actuality, I think the disagreement is more subtle (and the review less damning) than it seems.

Let's add it up. Ana Marie Cox once helmed the almighty site, Wonkette. Was funny, nasty, raunchy, smart, but was not confined to Sex and the City and so was also taken seriously. +5
Cox left Wonkette at the height of her popularity. +2
Wrote a disappointing book that didn't end up doing very well, causing people to wonder, Was she overrated in the first place? And why aren't those new Wonkettes very funny? -2
Hasn't done much since the book to resume vaunted place in spotlight. -1
In review, bashes "feminism" while calling herself a feminist. References high heels and Hilary Clinton, bra burning, and other cliches. Tries to be snarky, yet profound; kinda fails at both. Does, however, make the valid point that people just aren't on the Pollit wavelength anymore; acknowledges war on contraception/abortion; nods at complexity of situation. 0
(Bonus points for being sexy AND funny: +3)

Total score = 7

Katha Pollit writes for The Nation and has been around, making herself heard as unapologetic and intelligent, for decades, without getting written off as a Crazy. +5
She spoke at Swarthmore though and actually wasn't that great. -1
Has written books, articles, poetry, op-eds up the wazoo. +2
Her most recent book was panned (or didn't you hear?) -1
Although she then wrote a funny piece about the experience, which takes some serious can't-buy-'em-online balls of steels. Also, her title "Virginity or Death!" is a reference, whether inadvertent or not, to the fantastic Eddie Izzard "Cake or Death!" routine. +2

Total score = 7

Holy smokes, it's a tie! What are we going to do? Examine the funny in their respective recent works to see who really holds sway? No! This is America! The bottom line is THE BOTTOM LINE: the Amazon sales rank. Virginity or Death is currently #423. Dog Days? #137,949. Today, at least, Katha Pollit wins the title. Better luck next time, Cox.


Angela said...

The story was actually covered by my local news station, who used it in one of those ads that try to convice people to stay up for the 11pm news: "What caused this explosion in a Manhattan building? Was terrorism involved, and was anyone killed? Watch our story at 11 to find out."

Nate said...

I have never stopped pining for AMC. Any spat that keeps her in the spotlight is fine by me. The new boys do a fair job I suppose, but just don't quite have the oomph. The reviews kept me away from Dog Days.
But I was unaware of all this, so thanks!

More in-on-the-joke self-congratulatoriness: Cake or Death may be my most favorite Eddie Izzard bit EVER.

And was the last line a bawdy pun, or am I just reading in too much clever in your posts?