Monday, June 2, 2008

From the archives: Simon Doonan gets ‘nasty’ on me

Suddenly remembered: The time Simon Doonan wrote an angry column in the New York Observer about my negative review of his book Nasty. In a roundup in the Times Book Review three years ago, I called his book “a memoir of style consciousness and gay life never quite as witty as it pretends to be,” and said that “to hear Doonan tell his story, it’s a wonder not everyone raised in mid-century Reading, England, turned out to be as foppish and superficial as he did.”

Doonan flipped out, lamely playing the homophobia card. “Is ‘foppish and superficial’ some fab new Old Gray Lady code for ‘gay’?” he said of this “daringly un-P.C. stroke of [my] pen.” (The definition of “fop” notwithstanding, his accusation is ridiculous; his sexual orientation has nothing to do with his being a mediocre writer.)

“Instead of reviewing my book or my writing,” Doonan said in the column, “the reviewer, one Ben Sisario, chose to focus on me and what he saw as my underexamined self-image.” Though parts of Nasty are very amusing, it became painful to see that he believes so strongly that he must cover up what he believes is his essential ugliness: “It is your duty not to inflict your innate troll-like appearance upon the people around you and to do everything in your power to camouflage it,” he wrote. This idea is repeatedly called “life-enhancing.” But I found it sad and self-loathing.

I got more enjoyment from his loathing of me — the best thing anyone has said to me, ever, is “fop off!”

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