- Marion Ettlinger
- Rachel Shteir
On Monday I posted a commentary on the Bleader that drew an unusual amount of response—most of it favorable. My editor wrote to congratulate me on my fine words.
Naturally, this reaction distresses me. As I wrote a few years ago in the Reader: “Dissatisfaction is the columnist’s lot . . . . Praise a columnist and you stir up trouble.” For columnist, you may now also read blogger. Approval is our enemy. It turns our heads. Worse, it metastasizes. It turns into applause for something you didn’t actually write, wouldn’t have written, and don’t agree with. Of course, it’s tempting to shut up and ride the wave.
The subject of my commentary was a Sunday essay in the New York Times Book Review by Rachel Shteir on three Chicago-related books. Shteir took the occasion to give Chicago a thumping that I considered poorly thought out and argued to the point of zaniness. But it’s not as if nothing she wrote was true. And it’s not that she was simply indulging New York readers who required frequent assurances that the cow town by the lake is uninhabitable. According to reports I receive, New Yorkers don’t mind thinking of us favorably because they rarely think of us at all.