Stage Fright

Letter From Verona

“And there was a great cry in Egypt.”

—Exodus 12:30

A friend, though less in the sense of an intimate confidant, perhaps, than that of the famously urbane hobgoblin that was the guiding spirit of the old New Yorker, writes:

Having just plowed painfully through your latest (and last!) May 2002 “Letter From (so-called) Milan,” I (a long-time subscriber to Chronicles and having lived and worked in [Italy] more than 30 years!) found your piece downright insulting, offensive, stupid, sophomoric, flippantly nasty, too clever by half!, and tawdry twaddle—which all your previous pieces of gibberish vulgarly exhibit and regularly deliver—but none to this unreadable degree!

In sober truth, if I were the person my correspondent suspects me of being, I would be offended.  I would now be thinking of him as a sworn enemy.  I would not dream of helping him to air his grievances or of looking for a kernel of substance in what he writes.  I would remind myself that his savagely argumentative letter is two pages long, that it is—significantly—single spaced, and that he spells “consistently” with an “a.”  In short, I would behave as any American boor with what is sometimes called access (to power, to money, to the...

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