Dear Mr. Wolcott:
I'm such a fangirl of your sentences. Your wonderful sentences! Every month I read Vanity Fair cover to cover, and I never look at the bylines. Whenever a sentence truly surprises and delights me, I look up to see the byline is yours. Really, man, I think you're the best.
But this last article, this "Splendor in the Grit," I have to say, Mr. Grinch, what are you doing with our tree? I'm sure New York City was very nice and horribly scary in the '70s, but really, is "scary" a good way to describe the country's largest and most cosmopolitan city? Is it really? Seriously? You want to return to that? And worse yet, you want to rob the rest of the country of the experience of visiting your lovely city because it's too god-damn terrifying? Surely you jest.
I get that you're writing a book on the subject. A scary book, I'll bet.
I didn't realize what I was getting into while blow-drying my hair this morning. I started out reading your article loving this sentence: "But it's easy to over-accent the ugh factor and depict the '70s as a mammoth eyesore pothole out of which mankind somehow managed to climb, preparing itself for Madonna." I flagged it, in fact, for this category of my blog, "Campaign to Link Print Publishing," because I do want to call out good sentences in print even though I can't link to them here and wrap them up in cellophane forever. Even though it seems YOUR ARTICLES have been the last three I've linked. Perhaps I need to date around more in my magazine reading. But I must admit, I haven't seen anything in The Atlantic I liked as much as Vanity Fair, true story.
I digress. I continued reading until I got to this: "No one would wish to time-travel back to the urban transport of the 70s, but it did offer theater on wheels; when the subway doors opened with a spastic shudder, one didn't know if what awaited inside was a production of Marat/Sade or a re-enactment of a showdown from Death Wish."
And then there was this: "In the '70s the tourists looked scared. Getting back to the hotel alive was one of the main items on their checklists."
Mr. Wolcott, I suspect your heart might be two sizes too small.
Why would anyone want to return to a crime-ridden, grit-filled hellhole emblazoned, as you said it should be, with "abandon all hope, ye who enter here?" I'm all for wanting to be part of any club that won't take me as a member, but I think packing heat in order to hit the corner grocery seems a little severe, even for a hardened New Yorker. I can't imagine you're serious. Or if you are, I'd like to hug you and tell you it will all be better tomorrow.
I realize I write you this letter from the suburbs of Kansas City, where our lawns are covered in B-grade Astroturf and our trees bedecked with organic bluebirds of happiness, but COME ON. New York City is a cultural mecca and something to be celebrated, but let's not celebrate its ugliness. Let's celebrate its diversity, its neighborhoods, its beauty in small and large things. Celebrate its grime and muggings if you truly live among them, but if you look down from any apartment featuring a doorman, celebrating the ugly side of New York City is a lot of pretentious bullshit.
Cindy Lou Who
Winner of the Posh Puzzles gift set on Surrender, Dorothy: Reviews! Sorry I'm a week late.