All readers who are interested in learning what two superbly well placed lions of the New York media think about the war in Iraq (is that a cricket I hear chirping in the background?), will rush to see the slap-happy fight going on between Kurt Andersen and James Wolcott. Andersen unwittingly initiates hostilities with a breathy, tormented column considering the conscientious liberal's question of the week: What if Bush was right? (Warning, if your computer has a brow, it may furrow in uncontrollable angst while displaying this article.) Wolcott fires back with a little of that catty sauciness for which he is justly loathed. Andersen replies in kind.
Needless to say, the ad hominem attacks are the only part of this argument worth paying attention to. There, both antagonists score direct hits. Says Wolcott:
I've never quite "gotten" the post-Spy Andersen, what the point is of everything he's so busily doing. The essays he did for The New Yorker, his work on Studio 360, that TV interview show of his–they're bright and intelligent in a completely uninteresting way.
[D]uring the last few years, once he discovered his own simple, predictable, self-righteous, driving political convictions and decided to give them endless, repetitive vent, I have found myself wondering what ever happened to the terrific cultural critic he once was.
I'm calling this one a push. In fact, this exchange reminds me of nothing so much as Humbert Humbert's account of his fist fight with Clare Quilty:
We rolled all over the floor, in each other's arms, like two huge helpless children… I felt suffocated as he rolled over me. I rolled over him. We rolled over me. They rolled over him. We rolled over us…[E]lderly readers will surely recall at this point the obligatory scene in the Westerns of their childhood. Our tussle, however, lacked the ox-stunning fisticuffs, the flying furniture. He and I were two large dummies, stuffed with dirty cotton and rags. It was a silent, soft, formless tussle on the part of two literati… Both of us were panting as the cowman and the sheepman never do after their battle.
In that sense, we can all thrill to this fight—not in the expectation that either side might win, but in the hope that both will sustain terrible injuries.