The rumors were flying over the past few days, and yesterday afternoon the glorious truth shone forth: The New Republic has "suspended" critic Lee Siegel. Experts predict a 1000% increase of schadenfreude on the internets this weekend. There's already some commentary out and about, but the art blogosphere's own Kriston Capps seems to have the most detailed account. It makes one a little nostalgic for the days when it was only online art writers who complained about what a fatuous critic Siegel was. Pretty soon, though, his monumental asshattery was known far and wide; now, he is for the ages. Lee, we hardly knew ye--and wish we knew ye less.
The sockpuppetry angle, of course, provides the cherry on top. This cache preserves some of "sprezzatura's" comments. Nasty stuff, but one can only conclude that his TNR colleagues didn't like to read him, either--if they had been paying attention, it would have been painfully obvious that "sprezzatura" was Siegel, as one commentator quickly noted. He even recycles some of his previous criticisms of various online writers. The obvious lesson drawn is that the internets can make some people a little crazy, and it's a good idea to think about what you write online before hitting "post." Siegel isn't even the first TNR blogger to flame out, though his slow-motion self-immolation may be the more spectacular. On a less general level, the episode confirms what a nasty piece of work Siegel is, and how that fact connects his substantive (for lack of a better word) criticism and his online escapades. If specious simplifications marked the typical Siegel review, the same impulse towards reductive caricature shows up in his vicious remarks toward others, whether in the "blogofascism" comedy or his misadventures as "spezzatura." In a comment to this post way back, Kriston put it best:
The problem with Siegel's criticism is that he always goes for the gimmick . . . [I]t's hard for me to trust his instincts because I know he always reaches low.
How low, we were then still only learning.