Friday, November 1, 2013

Reader and Writing

November 1, 2013

Tony Adler
The Chicago Reader
350 North Orleans Street
Chicago, IL 60654

Mr Adler:

I'm not sure what your formal training has been as a writer.  Based on your Chicago Reader profile, you previously worked "mostly as a journalist and critic," and "published some more poetry [and] wrote a few plays."  I suspect that these claims are false, not only because they are so vague, but also because in the same profile, you profess to be Walt Whitman.  I'd like to write you off as a mischievous and bungling liar.

I'm confused, though, because in your recent review of the Neo-Futurists' The Sovereign Statement, you correctly use the word "comprise," which is uncommon at best.  You are generally able to punctuate and spell*, and you have chosen a word or two that I had to look up in the dictionary.  Also, the Chicago Reader hired you in the first place, so you must have done something correctly.^  Right?

I'll have to put assumptions aside and stick exclusively to the matter at hand.  That may require me to treat you as either less or more of a critical thinker than you actually are, so please forgive any condescension or, as the case may be, jargon that exceeds your intellectual grasp.  Should I ever come across your actual credentials somewhere, I will adjust the tone of this blog post accordingly.

Mr. Adler**, I am not one to compare myself to other men in terms of size; in this case, though, I must do so, if only to make you aware of how massive a man you are.  My blog has fifteen "like"-rs, and to my knowledge, none of them live in Chicago.  The Reader, on the other hand, claims a readership of 450,000.  That means that what you write reaches a full sixth of the population of this, the third largest city in the US.  (That number does not account for the 800,000 weekly page views the Reader also receives.)  Consequently,  what I write here--no matter how thoughtful, careless, idiotic, whimsical, or meticulous--will not be widely read, but what you write . . . Mr Adler**, you must support your opinions!  If you're going to make a bold and slanderous (and punny) claim like "Too much chaos makes The Sovereign Statement go wrong," you must be prepared to back it up with facts from The Sovereign Statement.

I'm not referring to facts that you've made up.  Shall I list some?  There are five bureaucrats, not four, stamping passports when you enter the theater.  Those bureaucrats are not sitting on a bench, but rather behind a counter.  (I don't understand why you wouldn't have the word "counter" in your demonstratively large active vocabulary.)  Also, there are more than two options available as names for our new Neo-Futurist nation.  (You might have noticed us selecting from a stack of playing cards?)  None of these options are "Neofuturella."  Perhaps you had a naked Jane Fonda on the brain?  Were you daydreaming?  Finally, a flag is never actually designed.  It's possible that with this image floating in front of your mind, you missed the subtle expository clues indicating that the whole flag design was a ruse.  I can only guess.

Let's put aside those fairly obvious factual errors in your 800 word article^^ and instead turn our attention to your tone.  Your use of hyperbole is INCREDIBLE!  UNBELIEVABLE!  PREPOSTEROUS!  Mr. Adler**, if Bilal Dardai wanted to make his point about all nations being invented "as ridiculously as possible," he might have entered the stage on a tricycle while farting into a tuna can.  He might have descended from the ceiling in a loin cloth, leashed and collared, pirouetting upside down with a cut-out of the former USSR in his jaws.  Instead, he penned a thoughtfully-constructed theater piece making use of motifs found in such political conspiracy films as JFK and Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy--examples of a genre with which you are clearly unfamiliar, given your (hyperbolic) description of Dardai as "melancholy" in the first scene.  Mr Adler**, do you know what "melancholy" means?  Van Gogh was melancholy; Bilal is Pakistani.  Is that the word you were looking for?

In any case, he was wearing a trench coat.  Maybe that made him seem sad to you.  Excuse me: "melancholy."

At this point, Mr Adler**, I will cease to critique your critique.*** It is, after all, very unlikely that my fifteen "like"-rs will pay these words much heed, much less that the father of free verse himself will cast his eyes upon it.  However, I will not cease to critique you.  What you've written, Mr Adler**, is not a review, but slander, and sloppy slander at that.  While you've provided almost as many accurate details about the play as you have inaccurate ones, you haven't provided a single detail to rhetorically support your chosen headline.  I wish you had been more responsible not only to the Jeff-recommended work being done in our theater, but to the art of journalism itself.

Maybe you should try again, this time with less Jane Fonda sideboob and more intelligent insight.  If you're wondering what I mean, have a look at these articles by these responsible journalists, who had legitimate criticisms of the show but were still keen enough to provide relevant details to support their opinions.

Yes, Mr Adler**.  This entry is an invitation.  Come see the play.  (I would write, "Come see the play again," but that might be giving you too much credit.)  I'll give you one of my comps, if you want.  Then, have a drink with us afterward and explain with specificity what you haven't even started to address in your review.

Where did the play confuse itself?

Or did it simply confuse you?

* These qualities may say more about Microsoft Word than about you.
^ This assumption may also be a poor one.
** Whitman?
^^ That's 1 factual error for every 160 words!
*** Except to compliment your comma splice in the article's penultimate sentence.  Well done, sir.