The Rittenhouse Review

A Philadelphia Journal of Politics, Finance, Ethics, and Culture

Friday, February 07, 2003  

David Talbot Gives Art-School Teacher a Pass

David Talbot’s recent interview with Camille Paglia, published today at Salon, and, if I might borrow a few words from the insufferable Andrew Sullivan, conducted by Talbot, as best I can tell, on his knees, is remarkable as much for what the would-be intellectual says herself as for the kid-gloves treatment she wins from Salon’s obsequious editor.

To cite just a few examples:

Talbot calls Paglia “a high-profile thinker,” a characterization that, if apt in any sense, relies on a generous definition of every word contained therein, including “a”;

Talbot lauds Paglia, whose work to date has been uniformly incoherent and unintentionally obtuse, for her “originality”;

Talbot praises Paglia, who has all of the mental stability of Sybil, only less, for her “unpredictability”; and

Talbot views with admiration Paglia’s tiresome belligerence, nodding with approval at her Laura Schlesinger-like antagonism, which Talbot terms Paglia’s “stop-your blubbering take on modern American life.”

I found myself agreeing with Paglia at various points in the interview. That’s no surprise, however, since Michael Ledeen probably loved it equally, the schizoid Paglia never having been able to assemble a logically consistent argument about anything. “All over the map” doesn’t begin to describe the words coming out of Paglia’s mouth: This woman runs the map through her canines and spits it out six ways to Sunday. (I will say, though, that she really lost me at the point when I thought she was going to recommend Ari Fleischer and Karl Rove start reading entrails.)

Remarkably, though, Paglia managed to get through the entire interview without using her most hackneyed of clichés -- “my sixties generation” -- a phrase she has regurgitated profusely in virtually every article of hers I’ve seen. Also strangely unmentioned this time around: the Beatles.

Nonetheless, Paglia does manage to throw in her by now shopworn and still irrelevant observations of her ethnic heritage: “my Italian family this, my Italian family that.”


For those not aware, “paglia” in Italian means “straw,” a word that in Camille’s case -- and I mean case -- obviously refers to the prickly and nearly worthless substance that fills the head of this over-exposed clown.

[Post-publication addendum (February 10): Why does the University of the Arts, the institution -- And I mean that! -- that employs Paglia, continue to state on its web site that she is “a regular contributor to Salon Magazine”? If she were (and she in fact is not), why did Salon editor David Talbot interview Paglia for his “magazine”, the same “magazine” that purportedly employs Paglia? If not, why does the school continue to perpetrate this lie? And, further, why hasn’t the Paglia disabused her employer of this notion? Just asking. And why is Paglia the only faculty member -- as best I can determine -- whose e-mail address is not provided at the school’s web site? Again, just asking.]

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