James Wolcott, the Vanity Fair writer and critic best known in the literary world for his critical body-slam of Kathryn Harrison’s controversial incest memoir, is one of the very few print media writers to say positive things about blogs, particularly the left-leaning political sites. This summer he wrote a relatively respectful article for Vanity Fair about Daily Kos, Atrios, et al.
Wolcott recently launched his own blog, and he has just published a new book critical of the media and its conservative bias. Yesterday he told Salon‘s Kerry Lauerman that the mainstream print media gurus are running scared:
If people only knew . . . how nervous and anxious people in the magazine world are these days. They’ve been nervous and anxious for three years now. . . . [a]bout the ad recession, about where magazines are going, about how formulaic magazines are, that even if you get a good job at a lot of magazines you’re just doing junk. The days of triumphalism, when there were big magazine parties with lots of money being thrown around, those days are gone. . . .
What I think is so fantastic [about blogs] is that there is so much more talent and braininess out in the country than you would know from just reading magazines. Frankly, if you go to a newsstand and read most magazines you’re reading the same damn people that you’ve read for 20 years. . . .
Asked who was the inspiration for his blog, Wolcott said:
There is a model I had in mind, but I can’t follow it, because it would be libelous. One of my favorite writers in the whole world is Auberon Waugh; he did a diary in Private Eye, which was a mixture of things that really happened, and utterly scandalous, malicious remarks he made about people. For example, he would call Prince Charles “Prince Batty” and say things like, “I loathe him getting his clammy fangs into this delicious Princess Diana.”