Last year, critic Lee Siegel — perhaps the most pretentious man in America and a particularly inexplicable choice on the part of the New Republic’s editors to write a blog for the magazine’s website — was revealed to have written heated defenses of his own work on his own blog under a pseudonym. This increasingly common, and demonstrably pathetic, kind of behavior (“sock puppetry,” in blogspeak) was properly deemed embarrassing and inappropriate by TNR and Siegel’s blog was killed.
Now Siegel is back in TNR-on-dead-tree with an attack piece on Dave Eggers and his new book. In his piece, he seems to be denouncing Eggers’s effort at writing a new kind of book — a work of fiction that is also an as-told-to memoir about genocide in Sudan — as an act of literary immorality. Perhaps it is; I haven’t read it. But shouldn’t Siegel be a little more modest when it comes to exposing the conduct of others, especially since he has never acknowledged that his own behavior was in the least inappropriate? (Here, by the way, is a hilarious parody blog about Siegel and his ridiculous sock-puppetry.)
On the other hand, this is Lee Siegel we’re talking about — a person who has seen fit to say something nice, in my memory, of only one work of contemporary art. And that — you may commence giggling now — was Eyes Wide Shut, a movie that shares with Siegel’s own work an almost complete incomprehension about how any actual human being might actually conduct himself on this planet.