Saturday, March 05, 2011

I need a new category for Styles Style

We've discussed Styles Style here before--that brilliant NYT approach to simultaneously glorifying and demeaning the city's wealthiest residents. You may scoff at this clever innovation on society pages, but I happen to know that there are only so many new spellings of Qaddafi/Khadafy/Ghadhafi/etc. that you can absorb before you find yourself clicking through to personal interest articles like this about the travails of young New York socialites struggling to reconcile arbitrary exclusivity with their thoroughgoing bourgie-ness. Now, this article isn't even personally interesting to an audience wider than five people, and yet, thanks to the gem about slow-minded middle America that the writer has managed to get out of one of his subjects, it has something even for me. The NY-specific class resentment of journalists joins forces with America's generalized aversion to snobbery to produce #1 most emailed articles on topics relevant to no one in America except the person interviewed for the article. Consider this brilliant quote:
To Anne de la Mothe Karoubi, 24, who went to the Marymount School, it’s an intellectual precociousness. “When you grow up in New York City, our minds develop faster,” she said. “You’re not from Wisconsin, you’re not from the middle of America. We’re international, we’re focused, we’re driven.”
The craft involved in this! A reporter got this presumably educated, culturally-aware woman to utter these words on the record to an NYT reporter!

And notice the elegant pairing of the subjects' illustrious prep schools with their humdrum colleges: Dalton, Trinity, Browning (which I'd never heard of before--new knowledge!) goes to Lafayette, GWU, Trinity in Hartford and studies that greatest of all thoroughly middle-brow vocational majors in the world--marketing. I mean, you may as well get an AA in dental hygiene. The reporter delights in all this obviously--he probably went to Brown or Cornell or someplace with an acceptably selective admissions policy and thinks, my SATs were double yours, you airheaded clown in a checked Burberry suit. And just to prove it, he demonstrates that he too knows about "sipp[ing] Côtes du Rhône at sidewalk cafes" and which are the most exclusive enclaves in the Hamptons, so there.

The great tragedy of this article is that the reporter never vindicates the characters in Metropolitan, who are infinitely more interesting than these people, and he doesn't follow the potentially promising line of questioning that may begin by asking exactly what a 23-year-old "art dealer and consultant" actually does, or what is entailed in being a "stylist and fashion designer" at 22. But we'll cut him slack for that if it bought him that Wisconsin quote.


Phoebe said...

I read that, and after self-flagellating for a while for being from the same city and neighborhood as the subjects, realized that, tragic as "Wisconsin" is for them, they're more horrified still by graduates of public schools, and having met these sorts, I know that as NYC-snooty as my own high school seems to many, to this set it's basically like coming from the gutter, to the extent that I would not be at all surprised if one of the "charity balls" was about providing Stuyvesant students or Upper West Siders with clean drinking water.

But I'm commenting because I can't believe you didn't mention this gem: "Those disinclined to formal wear still looked clubbable in Burberry check jackets, bow-ties and Hermès scarves." Clubbable!

Miss Self-Important said...

I didn't know what clubbable meant--capable of being inducted into a club, or capable of being clubbed, as in, with a baseball bat or some other object?

Phoebe said...

What struck me was the ambiguity.

Sigivald said...

A reporter got this presumably educated, culturally-aware woman to utter these words on the record to an NYT reporter!

Well, presumably educated, sure. (Or more accurately, credentialed. Education is pretty rare.)

But culturally-aware? Of the little New York City bubble she lives in, doubtless.

Of America as a whole? Doubtful in the extreme.

(Of course, my question is and remains, why does anyone outside of New York City read the New York Times?

In 2011, that is?)

Anonymous said...

I am going to answer your question seriously.

Why read The New York Times? Is there a better science section in any other newspaper? A more lively op-ed page? Significantly better foreign reporting? Furthermore, you don't have to share an ideological affinity with Krugman, Brooks or Douthat to realize that they are consistently worth reading.

The irrational jump from "the NYT publishes a lot of silly stuff" to "the NYT is not worth reading" is annoyingly pervasive.

Miss Self-Important said...

Sigivald: Culturally aware enough to know that it's not ok to say that in public even if you believe it in private, which is to say, aware enough to know that people will hate you for it.

As for the NYT, because it tells me the news.

Sigivald said...

MSI: Well, sure. But don't countless other outlets provide news, at least as well?

It certainly seems so.

Anonymous: See above, and also... as I said, it's 2011.

"The best science reporting in any newspaper" (if taken on faith, as I will, arguendo) is still a very low bar, and better science reporting is doubtless available from specialists.

As for the op-ed page, "liveliness" is not a criterion I value in that context. If I want to see bigots screaming about policy, I can find that anywhere.

If I want sober analysis, I can find it elsewhere, for sure.

(And no, while I do not share ideological affinity with either Krugman or Douthat, I also see no evidence that either is worth reading more than rarely, let alone consistently.

I'd value Krugman's academic thoughts on world trade, as it's his demonstrated competence.

Unfortunately his Times column is not about that, and he has completely Peter Principled himself.)

I still see no reason to read the Times (beyond habit or status signaling), if one lives outside New York or the surrounding area.

I find the idea that the Times is worth reading annoyingly pervasive, though if circulation numbers are any guide, decreasingly so with every day.

Alpheus said...

MSI: Have you seen this? The Post doesn't do Styles Style nearly as well as the Times, but they did manage to pull another Wisconsin reference out of Anne de la Mothe Karoubi.