The Word on the Street
- Primary Colors: A Novel of Politics by Anonymous
Chatto, 366 pp, £15.99, February 1996, ISBN 0 7011 6584 7
At Kramerbooks, Washington’s best bookstore-café, there’s a menu of ‘Primary Colors Specials’, including Lasagne di Paul Begalanese and Pork Chop George Stephen-applesauce. There’s a copy prominently displayed in the new books section of the White House library, and 742,000 have been shipped to bookstores to meet the demand. It’s number one on the New York Times bestseller list; North American paperback rights have been sold for $1.5 million, and Mike Nichols has bought the movie rights for another million. Garry Trudeau has put it into Doonesbury. Street vendors in Washington are selling buttons that read ‘I am not Anonymous.’
Vol. 18 No. 8 · 18 April 1996
After many years at Princeton, Elaine Showalter understandably wants to move to Harvard, but must you let her conduct her campaign in your columns (LRB, 7 March)? A few months ago she was flattering Professor Marjorie Garber (whom she called ‘Marge’, as I recall), and now, in her review of Primary Colors, she not only flattered Henry Louis Gates but went to the trouble of telling him she was flattering him. I wouldn’t mind at all having Ms Showalter around here – feminists at Harvard still aren’t exactly thick on the ground – but could you tell her from me that flattering the fashionable members of the English Department is not the most effective way of getting the rest of them to offer her a job?
Vol. 18 No. 9 · 9 May 1996
Elaine Showalter does not respond to gratuitously malicious letters, but as her husband I do not feel bound by such constraints. Since Elizabeth Spencer (Letters, 18 April) has chosen to publish her unfounded and scurrilous opinion that the only reason for praising Marge Garber and Skip Gates is to get a job at Harvard, I would feel remiss if I did not publish some relevant facts. First, Elaine has admired and praised the work of both Marge and Skip from well before either one was hired by Harvard, or indeed before either one had earned the epithet ‘fashionable’. Second, Elaine was offered a job at Harvard and turned it down in favour of Princeton. At the time, I tried to reassure her about her decision by saying that Harvard was not paradise; although she would find many brilliant and wonderful colleagues there, she would not escape the venomous, petty-minded, spiteful, envious, infantile, invidious back-biting that is to be found, alas, throughout the academic world. She has finally conceded that I was right.
Princeton, New Jersey