There is [Renata Adler’s] famous Pauline Kael review. It is hard to remember what a cultural despot Kael, then the New Yorker‘s film critic, was when Adler took her down in 1980. Kael was bully, drama queen, suck-up, disciplinarian, hysteric, and — taking jobs and inducements from the people she promoted — a bit corrupt, too. Still, opprobrium yet attaches to Adler for her sweeping emperor’s-new-clothes leveling of Kael; and it certainly earned her no points with the New Yorker, their mutual employer.
But the rightness of Adler’s view of Kael as nasty, self-promoting gasbag only become more obvious as Kael’s reputation disappeared after she lost her New Yorker post and power. She was unreadable, said Adler; and indeed, Kael isunread now.
– Michael Wolff, in an obvious hit job on Kael, masquerading as an appraisal of Renata Adler. “Suck-up” is ridiculous, though I suppose you could call it a matter of opinion. Suggesting that Kael was fired from the New Yorker and that she is now “unread” — well, those are just blatant lies. As usual, I blame the writer here less than I blame whoever it was that edited this garbage. All I can come up with here is that:
a) said editor doesn’t know who Pauline Kael is, so would not think to challenge such ridiculous assertions;
b) said editor is so thrilled to be editing a writer of Wolff’s stature that they dare not challenge such ridiculous assertions;
c) for purely economic reasons, said editor (the kind, I mean, who isn’t employed merely to check for grammar and spelling mistakes but to actually critique the writing itself, work to make it better) doesn’t actually exist. Said editor, in this case, might actually be an unpaid, straight-out-of-college intern.