Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Such Thin-Skinned Artists, Are We...

From Paul (Always Honest, Seldom Kind) Levine...

THIN-SKINNED ARTISTS ARE WE: Sorry for the Cole Porter construction of that intro. But here's the story. A cabaret singer friend just received a glowing review in the trades...with one smaller-than-a-grain-of-sand criticism: she has trouble hitting the high notes. So the singer is apoplectic. "My ego is shredded! My career is ruined!"

A lot of us have trouble dealing with criticism. I've written 13 novels and have been the recipient of highly favorable reviews, some undeserved. I particularly enjoy the ones that gush over profound thematic concepts that I neither intended nor knew existed. Mostly, I don't remember the good ones. But the occasional stinker: oooooh, those hurt.

Two come readily to mind. The Miami Herald, my hometown paper, used a freelancer to review one of my Jake Lassiter novels. The reviewer was the widow of one of my favorite authors. She skewered me. I still have the scars to prove it.

A reviewer for an obscure newspaper in Connecticut criticized one of my Lassiter novels by attacking me personally. He wrote that obviously I was not as heroic as my protagonist, and that I obviously lived vicariously through his brave and chivalrous acts. Uh....yeah. That's why he's my alter ego. I'm Walter Mitty. I suspect many novelists are.

The play, "City of Angels," raises the question, does the author control his hero or vice versa. The concept is explored in the Cy Coleman/David Zippel song, "You're Nothing Without Me," in which the author and his fictional hero, trade jibes. But I don't just live vicariously. If I met that reviewer, I wouldn't depend on Jake Lassiter to punch him out. I'd do it myself....or, on second thought, I'd get Jim Born to do it.

WORTH EVERY DOLLAR? The Orlando Sentinel has published the salaries of all 120 head coaches in the Football Bowl Subdivision. USC's Pete Carroll, a/k/a The Big Cheater, earns the most shekels, $4.4 million. Doug Martin of Kent State earns 4% of that, $170,000.

1. Pete Carroll, USC Pac-10 $4,400,000
2. Charlie Weis, Notre Dame Ind. $4,200,000
3. Urban Meyer, Florida SEC $4,000,000
4. Nick Saban, Alabama SEC $3,900,000
5. Bob Stoops, Oklahoma Big 12 $3,800,000
6. Les Miles, LSU SEC $3,800,000
7. Jim Tressel, Ohio State Big Ten $3,500,000
8. Kirk Ferentz, Iowa Big Ten $3,030,000
9. Mack Brown, Texas Big 12 $2,910,000
10. Bobby Petrino, Arkansas SEC $2,900,000

The complete list is here.

My impressions. I wonder:

If Pete Carroll really is worth more than Joe Paterno, Bobby Bowden, and Howard Schnellenberger, combined?

If Notre Dame is paying Charlie Weis ($4.2 million) by the pound?

If any conference loves its coaches (before hating them) more than the S.E.C., with 5 of the top 11 salaries?

If Houston Nutt at Ole Miss ($2.5 million) should get a raise, just for having the best name in football?

WHERE FOOTBALL MATTERS: A husband and wife, Oklahoma football fans, recently asked Sooner QB Sam Bradford for an autograph...on their two-month old baby.

COLLEGE NOSTALGIA: On October 12, 1985, Penn State defeated Alabama 19-17 at University Park, PA, en route to an 11-1 season and number 3 ranking. This photo, sure to embarrass my son Mike, was taken the day before the game on the PSU campus. (It's my opinion that a parent's job is to embarrass the kids as much and as often as possible).

Paul Levine


  1. Ah, what a great picture.

    I agree about criticism. The good reviews are vague memories. The bad ones stick in your head forever, sometimes word-for-word.

    Carroll is easy on the eyes, he works in the entertainment capital of the world, and many USC alums are rich and rabid. Need I say more?

  2. If I understand Patty correctly, she has a crush on Mr. Pete Carroll, the Daddy Warbucks of football coaches.

  3. New movie "Stock Shock" explains how the whole naked short selling thing works--and how NSS nearly took us into a second Depression. Amazon has it.

  4. Naw, my crushes are reserved for much richer men (just joking). And what happened to your hair in that photo? It looks so...tame.

  5. A couple of years ago, when I was nominated for an award, some asshole sniped that I was obviously a second-stringer, and that if Larry Block hadn't been taken off the short list, I never would have made it.

    Odder, though, is the experience John Crowley once remarked on: when a reviewer slathers you with praise, and the book he or she is reviewing bears little or no resemblance to the book you wrote.

  6. I'll have to remember to duck the next time I see you, Paul...or any of you!

  7. Reviewers and media analysts should be beaten and not heard.