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Sympathy for the Sorkin Devil

Okay so The Newsroom is taking a beating from professional working reporters, not including Dan Rather, who used to be one and is


Sorkin with his favorite person in the world

now just a sad old man who posts at Gawker. Maybe Sorkin’s formula has worn a bit thin. Maybe reporters feel berated and belittled by The Newsroom. It would be like Jake Tapper showing up at Sorkin’s job and telling him how to write scripts properly. But the biggest story to come out of The Newsroom’s newsroom is Sorkin’s clash with one Sarah Nicole Prickett.

I don’t really like articles where the reporter becomes the story. There’s no doubt that Sorkin is an ass, but Sarah Nicole Prickett’s interview with him is short on interview and long on out of context quotes.

Reading between the mostly left out lines, we can conclude that Sorkin’s ego felt pricked because Prickett brought up the internet displacing traditional news and Aaron Sorkin is really not a fan of the internet. That’s what probably leads him to call her “Internet Girl”.

But Prickett spends a lot of time implying that he’s a sexist pig and maybe even a racist for… not really very much.

Aaron Sorkin knows the weight of last words, and his last words to me, as we walk-and-talk out of the HBO press room, are: “Write something nice.” He says this in the “Smile, honey” tone of much less successful jerks.

Okay so we’re indicting him for his tone of voice? Maybe it was a really offensive tone of voice. I don’t know. I wasn’t there. Like the whole piece, it’s out of context.

In between that there’s a whole bunch of stuff like this…

At the short end of a TV season dominated, if not by shows about girls and women, by talk about shows about girls and women, Sorkin’s new drama The Newsroom arrives with a “Hey, remember how great America was when it wasn’t just a man’s world, but a man’s man’s world?”

Is that really the message of The Newsroom?

I’ll concede that Sorkin is probably sexist, but is Hey America, We’re Going Back to the He-Male 50’s Where Women Are in the Kitchen really the message of the show?

Is The Newsroom not allowed to exist because Girls is on? What about Game of Thrones? Or True Blood?

In the bits of the interview that we get, Sorkin starts out being a jerk. Then Sarah Nicole Prickett hits him with, well aren’t you a tool of the patriarchy longing for the days when white men ran the world. That’s perhaps not the exact question she asks him, but it’s close enough.

Sorkin doesn’t see this. He denies being either an ideologue or a modernist, agreeing only that the show is written in his voice, and that said voice is “authorial” (both my word and his). I’d posit that creating an authorial drama in a time of mumbling, precarious, voice-of-a-generation comedy almost absolutely constitutes an ideology, one both modernist and masculinist. But conveniently, at that moment, the interview’s over.

This is college sophomore entrapment. This is, you’re guilty because you’re doing what you’ve always been doing, but it’s running against a social current that I just defined as the norm for you to defy.

This is Oleanna reasoning and I hate that play, but I also hate people who play this game.

Sorkin sees a challenge to his authority and lashes out in a childish way. The way he lashes out plays into Sarah Nicole Prickett’s agenda. And a meme is born.

“Listen here, Internet girl,” he says, getting up. “It wouldn’t kill you to watch a film or pick up a newspaper once in a while.”

I say also, factually, “I have aNew York Times subscription and an HBO subscription. Any other advice?”

He looks surprised, then high-fives me. Being not a person who high-fives or generally makes physical contact with interview subjects, I look more surprised.

“I’m sick of girls who don’t know how to high-five,” he says. He makes me try to do it “properly,” six times. He also makes me laugh; I’m nervous, and it’s so absurd. He loves it. He says, “Let me manhandle you.”

Sorkin winds up proving her point, that he’s threatened by women and reacts by confronting them physically. Prickett is wrong in her reasoning, but the confrontation makes it seem like she’s right. That’s also an old trick of sensationalistic reporters.  Sorkin loses because he doesn’t really understand the game, even though he’s done countless interviews and is making a show about the media.

Prickett understands news in the Gawker era and she taught Sorkin a lesson that he probably didn’t learn, but she also showed that there’s no reason to read her or to listen to Sorkin.

The Potter Whine Begins over the New York Times Deathly Hallows Reviews

In a note of desperation the New York Times illegitimately obtained a copy of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows and rushed it on to Michiko Kakutani who spent most of the night in a frenzy inducted my metamphetamines and herbal tea trying to read through the whole bloody thing, before giving up around page 300, skipping ahead to the end and in a daze threw together a rambling review comparing Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows to Shakespeare, Milton, Dickens, Kafka, Tolkien, the Wizard of Oz, Milton, Star Wars and Spiderman among others. I used to do the same thing when I was a Freshman but I was never a respected New York Times book reviewer. Also I was usually writing about something at least vaguely on the level of Kafka, Milton or Dickens rather than a popular kiddie book.

But this sloppy wet kiss from the formerly respected Michiko Kakutani did not abate the fury of Harry Potter fans who on the command of their billionaire mistress over across the pond began baying with fury at the thought that anyone had read and reviewed the book early?

Why? After all no one was forcing them to read it. They were free to skip past the review. After all it’s not as if Michiko Katakuni had put up spoilers in all caps bright red in the middle of the review. But when dealing with wacky cults, you’re dealing with people who believe that their wishes have priority over yours and that respect for their beliefs trumps everyone else’s rights.

And that’s how this ensued with whiny adult Harry Potter fans registering their whiny outrage.

That does NOT give you right to be so disrespectful to Jo Rowling or her fans. I would have thought that a paper, like the New York Times, would have been able to use their common sense to realise how big this is; you’re doing nothing but embarrass yourselves. You’re proving that you’re no different from the vermin out there, trying to get their name in the headlines for selling the book early.

What in the world does this even mean? Why should a newspaper be respectful of a writer and her fans? I mean more so than the slobbery review the Times had already penned. In fact papers have not only the right but the obligation to be disrespectful of people like this. I would not want to read any paper that treated J.K. Rowling’s insane demands for censorship of the press or that of her fans with respect.

I think that the New York Times could have respected the excitement of their (former) future readers and waited until Saturday to publish the review.

Now we’re required to respect people’s excitement? What does that even mean? Now I’m obligated to respect excitement? This sounds like a Seinfeld episode waiting to happen.

Sorry… much BS…..I ain’t buying your self-serving justification. Details is what the book is all about. I’m even now more disappointed in you than I was before. You just couldn’t let it be….its all about the $$ screw the kids!

Yeah because everyone knows the kids rush right off and read the Times book review.

Now, the New York Times should be included along with The Daily News and The Post as not just a blatant but also a singular, shameful example of a newspaper exploding the muggles’ agreement by which we respect both Rowling’s and her readers’ desire to let Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows unfold its mysteries as we read it.

I’m sorry but the only agreement we recognize is that of the United States Constitution not a bunch of adults trying to act like 5 year olds and leaving their children to cry themselves to sleep at home while they camp out in front of Barnes and Nobles’. Muggles? Yes they should be mugged. And mugged hard.

This isn’t just any book, this isn’t just any book release – this is the conclusion of ten years of imagination, mystery, and simply put – pure fun! And you’ve had a hand in trying to ruin it.

I pledge allegiance to the Scholastic Books marketing campaign and its artificially generated pretense at pure fun and mystery. One deluded readership under J.K. Rowling indivisibly stupid with high book prices for all.

I also see that both Mr. Lyman and Mr. Hoyt have taken care to emphasize that Katutani’s review was highly positive and “praised the HP series”. Puh-lease! J. K. Rowling – and all of us HP fans – don’t need someone else to praise this book. We certainly don’t need a writer like Katutani to stamp it approved! We know the series, we know Rowling’s work, and we love it all. And because we do, we want to get it straight from the source – this Saturday!

Who’s stopping you, you overgrown dingbat? You’ve clearly stated that you have no interest in reading reviews because you have absolute faith in the greatness of a book you haven’t read yet. So take your cult over to the bookstore and stop complaining because book reviews are not for you. They’re for people who actually want to know something about a book before embracing it senselessly.

Now let me be clear. I hate spoilers. I hate people who deliberately spoil things for you ahead of time. Normally.

On the other hand between J.K. Rowling’s lawsuits against everyone, the corporate fascist clampdown on stores and her fandom’s shrieking hysteria and sense of entitlement, I personally hope everyone one of these sad examples of the human spaces has someone shove the last page of the book in their faces before they buy it. That would be poetic justice.

Harry Potter Barred by the Times

Over at the Huffington Post, home to whatever celebs, semi-celebs and random friends of Larry David, Arianne Huffington could talk into occasionally writing a column, Michael Giltz has a rambling piece arguing that the New York Times is committing war crimes by separating children’s and adult’s books on separate lists.

It happened in 2000. The Harry Potter books — a once in a lifetime publishing phenomenon — were dominating the bestseller lists, with three titles ensconced in the Top 15 at the same time. It just wasn’t fair, moaned publishers of more “serious” fiction. It kept more deserving titles off the list, titles that people would never hear about, said bookstore owners. And so in a rash, indefensible decision, the New York Times decided to banish children’s books solely to their own separate list.

Of course ‘banish’ implies that this was somehow destructive and discriminatory. In point of fact there already were soft cover and hard cover bestseller lists. Does Glitz feel that ‘banishing’ soft cover books to their own list was unfair? In fact having separate adult and children’s bestseller lists makes perfect sense. They are different segments of the industry and children’s books should be featured in their own list. This would also give non-harry potter books a chance to be featured in the children’s bestseller lists too.

A major contributory factor to this move was the success of Harry Potter books because it demonstrated the strength of the children’s publishing market.

Imagine if the people behind the Nielsen Top 10 TV show listings decided that reality shows were “taking away” valuable attention from dramas and sitcoms. Let reality shows get their own list and the official Top 10 only include “genuine” TV shows, like CSI and House and Grey’s Anatomy.

Why not? We could have ratings listings for dramas and reality shows and game shows. But this makes less sense because all these shows do compete with each other. By contrast a children’s cartoon series isn’t going to be listed in the same space. They’re simply not competing with each other. No more than Michael Chabon is competing with Harry Potter and the Stylus of Doom.

Imagine if Variety decided animated movies were just for kids and didn’t belong on the box office Top Ten list, when more adult films like Knocked Up and Ocean’s 13 needed the space.

You mean like the way Oscars now recognized animated films separately?

This isn’t just about bragging rights for J.K. Rowling. This is about accuracy and fairness…and about the next Harry Potter. One major reason the books became a phenomenon in the first place was because they broke onto the New York Times bestseller list. At many bookstores, any title that does so automatically gets placed in a prominent position and receives a hefty discount.

And the next Harry Potter will find it even easier because it can now break into the children’s bestseller list which will have more spaces in it and after the success of harry potter, booksellers will be paying close attention to that list.

Adults who read about the success of the books didn’t have to skulk into the children’s section to buy a copy. They found it right there in the front of the store next to new releases by Stephen King and John Grisham.

And why is that a good thing? If adults are going to embarrass themselves by reading kiddy lit, they should be forced to go into the kids department for it. That or download some of PWOT’s covers.

Quite simply, if this idiotic rule banning kid’s books from the charts had been in effect before Harry Potter, there might never have been Harry Potter in the first place — and certainly not to the level of sales we’ve seen today.

Boo hoo. If Harry Potter was doomed to become popular, it would have anyway. Harry Potter as a marketing machine would not have been slowed down by the bestseller list and stores would have responded to sales regardless of the times. This fearmongering is just silly.

Philip Pullman’s brilliant fantasy trilogy His Dark Materials was a big hit — and should draw even more fans when The Golden Compass, the film version of the first book in that trilogy hits theaters this December. But if it hadn’t been banned from The New York Times bestseller list, this mature, sophisticated work might very well have broken out to a much wider audience.

What wider audience? His Dark Materials was reasonably popular but its appeal was limited and the third book was a whopping disaster. The Dark Materials trilogy lacked the marketing push that Harry Potter had.

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