Tuesday, January 14, 2003

I'm not ashamed to say it: I don't hate James Lileks. Join me if you don't hate James Lileks too!

But I do think James needs a friend, because so far January has been a cruel month for him.

It started with one essentially compassionate and heck, probably accurate remark in a long (long - you have to admit the man can and does write) post to his Daily Bleat:

I don’t hate Michael Moore, I pity him - he’s going to die in 15 years of a massive coronary on a cold tiled bathroom floor, awash in the blasts of his emptied bowels, his autopsy photos posted to The Smoking Gun's new 3D holographic photo section.

Well. All hell broke loose in the blogosphere. And then there was the "hateful nostalgia monkey" comment by "some anonymous shitheel" in CityPages.

2003 isn't getting off to a good start for the Twin Cities' favorite stay-at-home dad.

Here are some of the bleeding-heart softie-leftie comments, a lot of them probably from people who really do hate Michael Moore for his role in getting George Bush to the White House, so why are they in such an uproar, and others from just-jealous bloggers and "writers" who wish they had James's money and popularity...

From Tom Tomorrow:

Wow, is that ever a coldblooded piece of prose.

I understand that a lot of right-leaning bloggers have a particular fixation on Michael Moore--but this is really disturbing, even within that context.

From Amy, commenting at Atrios:

Y'know, I can no longer read James Lileks journal and have removed it from my links page. For over a year I was able to overlook his pompous posturing right-wing provincialism and chickenhawk warmongering because when he writes about taking care of his daughter or going to Target, it's delightful reading. But the over concentration juvenile bile in his Chuck Barris post, not to mention his disrespecting Elvis, is over even my limit.

Other than that he's a rage repressed teenage ninny trapped in the body of a 45 or so year old man, the only explanation for this that I can think of is that Lileks just has too much time on his hands. So, it's been a long time coming, but this really was the last straw.

From Stan at Atrios:

Lileks can be very funny when he's talking about the quirks of domestic life or benign aspects of popular culture. In some ways he's like a modern day Thurber.

But as soon as he starts interjecting his political views into the mix, it becomes apparent how naive he really is. Embarassingly naive.

Imagine being at a cocktail party listening to a delightful storyteller who has a fine command of the English language pass along anecdotes of his daily life, peppered with sparkling wit and good humor. In the middle of all this, the speaker slowly begins crapping his pants as if it were the most normal thing in the world, all the while continuing on with his tales.

The look that would appear on your face in that situation is similar to the one I get whenever Lileks strays away from pleasant trivialities like quaint postcards and old matchbook covers that he's collected. It's painfully obvious that he's sorely out of his element.

Therefore, the pity belongs with him.

From Julia, also at Atrios:

His descriptions of his role as stay-at-home parent are pretty creepy too. He likes to have dinner on the table and a nice clean house and a clean happy baby waiting for his wife when she gets home from killing dragons all day so she'll have nothing to do but relax and pay attention to the baby. Two professional incomes and book sales, but he doesn't get help (that he talks about), he does it all himself and takes the time for approved child development activities and the little nipper's quirks, bless her, and writing books and keeping up with two or three long blog entries and the six or seven different sections of his website and the newspaper gig, and sometimes he gets darn sleepy, but then he looks at his little imp frolicking in the yard while he types frantically into his powerbook and stirs dinner with a spoon held between his toes and (between vagrant thoughts about how he wants people whose thoughts he disagrees with to die) is filled with a feeling of warmth and satisfaction because This, This is clearly what he was put here for.

Has anyone seen Marabel Morgan lately?

From Toni, at Atrios too:

The hatred isn't irrational. It's maybe overdone for this one offense, but I think Julia's comments nailed it. He's just insufferable.

Many of us tune in daily out of morbid fascination of what we might find. Will it be his daughter's adorable baby talk, reproduced in italics ("dad-dee")? Will it be a zany encounter with a service person who fails James in every way (usually followed by an anecdote of James' term in such jobs, when he did everything right)? Or will we hear a hymn to his house, his dog or his computer setup?

On other sites (MetaFilter), I've seen Lileks deliver stern lectures on all that we must give up to be parents, and I've wondered if he has any self-awareness at all. As far as I can tell, the only thing the man has deprived himself of since the li'l angel was delivered was his annual Mexican vacation. And let me just say, if it spares us another sub-site on lileks.com detailing every moment spent in Cozumel, well, she really is a bundle of joy.

I'd be sorry to see him close up shop. The best days are when he passes on some insult delivered unto him (as when he reported being called a "hateful nostalgia monkey" earlier this week). His tone is priceless: Can you believe what they're saying about me? Me? And all I do for you?

Keep James around, I say. He's so much fun to hate.

(I love you, Toni! I don't hate James Lileks, but I do love you!)

The Rittenhouse Journal
chimed in:

Lileks once was cool and interesting. Now, he’s just insufferable.

And directed us to Bertram Online:

I don’t hate Lileks. I pity him — in a few (or many, whatever) years from now he will no longer be remembered as an affectionate collector of scannable Americana; he will no longer be remembered as a slick, professional columnist who — occasionally — would churn out pieces that actually resembled literature. No, he will be remembered as a cold and mean dirtbag who spilled his bowels all over his keyboard, day in, day out.

Jesse Taylor of Pandagon too:

Can someone tell me why James Lileks is funny? I don't get it - it's Dennis Miller, but neither particularly relevant nor particularly heady, and entirely too self-obsessed. It's not jealousy, because if not for the exhortations of many a rightist, I wouldn't know him from a hole in the ground, and nobody's ever heard of him anyway - but this is supposed to be funny?

Comments were made there as well. From quiche:

Lileks used to have a radio program here in Minneapolis on the local right wing station. It was three hours of constant talk about nothing. A typical topic was to spend an hour talking about how great cinnamon flavored toothpicks are. Dull, boring, self referential and vapid. Not funny or interesting. Kinda pathetic really.

From spacewaitress:

I'm from Minneapolis, and I think James Lileks has the ability to be uproariously funny. When he stays far, far away from politics, that is. Just browse through his book, "Gallery of Regrettable Food." Funny stuff.

Unfortunately, he is also a font of smugness and condescension. Reading his daily missives, I get the impression that he thinks he's better than most people. It fairly oozes out of his writing.

It's too bad that he's capable of spouting such horrible vitriol, because at times he really is funny, and really is a good writer. But the way he expresses himself, sometimes, is absolutely repugnant.

From Margaret:

Well, I'm from St. Paul, and I agree that Lileks can be funny when he's not writing about politics. Or about himself. Or about the unfortunate "Gnat". This is one angry, bitter, self-absorbed man. Mike Finley may have zeroed in on the reason why: he never got the recognition or made the money he thought he would. At least it's nice to see a dad turning into the same kind of obsessed child-bore so many stay-at-home moms do. We're soon to get "Gnat" video, it seems. That'll be a red-letter day for sure.

Ooh, here's some months-old Lileks bashing from Uppity-Negro:

Fucking Lileks. Sorry, the smug bastard just pisses me off is all.

He never writes about his plans in advance, does he? Suicide-bomb myself at Mall of America when I know he's going to be there. . . yeah, that works.

I won't ask that he have Gnat with him. Can't have everything, after all.

And how about Dean Allen, who commented on Lilek's "unsurprisingly scanty" knowledge of computer text (?), meanwhile referring to him as "Minneapolis’s favourite daddy-wuv-booboo chickenhawk-manqué"? Well, he agrees with me - doesn't he?

I don't hate James Lileks. I do however like making fun of his pretensions, and of the warblogger-tailored neocon agenda in his writing, which is roughly as transparent as his desperate, gawping need to be loved.

Other than that, I'm sure he's a standup fellow.