New Yorker steps on slipperly slope of sleaze

September 10, 1997|By Stephanie Shapiro | Stephanie Shapiro,SUN STAFF

Maybe New Yorker editor Tina Brown and her well-connected writers, often celebrities themselves, wanted to prove that they're not just a bunch of au courant social swells and intellectuals, that they could compete with the British Sun, the News of the World, the Daily Mail and the other tabloids after all. That they could gossip, predict the future, name-drop and ooze saccharin sentiment with the best of them.

How else to understand the Sept. 15 issue of the New Yorker, which pays strange tribute to the late Princess of Wales?

Editor Brown can't wait to get her royal licks in with a recollection of lunch with Princess Diana and Vogue editor Anna Wintour. It's written in the first person, and she uses this tragic occasion to spread a dead woman's gossip. Brown suggests Sarah Ferguson, the Duchess of York, hasn't helped the royals' reputation.

"No," Brown has Diana responding. "And it's a shame for Andrew, because he really is the best of the bunch." Just what Fergie needs to hear.

Brown also insinuates that the emptiness of Diana's life was proven by the fact that she was in Paris in August, a time when anybody who is anybody flees that city. By the way, Tina, did you really take copious notes during that Four Seasons tete-a-tete-a-tete?

In another piece, Diana's confidante, author Clive James, professes his love for her, then has the audacity to write that he had a "deep and ineradicable suspicion" that she would get herself killed.

Thanks for the warning.

Far be for Francine du Plessix Gray, a self-defined "progressive feminist," to embrace Diana and the "shallow glamour of her social set." But to her enormous surprise, Diana, in death, has much to offer Gray as a symbol of all rejected women, or at least those in her circle.

"The disappointments, the humiliations of her experiences with men reflected the rage my friends and I still felt, decades later, toward all those fellows in our own pasts who had jilted or deceived us ..." Now there's a moving tribute.

Finally, Salman Rushdie, surpassing anything the tabloids are capable of, applies his own peculiar intellectual mumbo jumbo to prove that Diana's death was the consequence of sexual assault.

"Think of it this way," he commands. "The object of desire, the Beauty, the Blonde (Diana), is repeatedly subjected to the unwelcome attentions of a persistent suitor (the Camera) until the dashing, glamorous knight (riding his Automobile) sweeps her away. The Camera, with its unavoidably phallic long-lensed snout, gives pursuit. And the story reaches its tragic climax, for the Automobile is driven not by a hero but by a clumsy drunk."

So that explains it.

By the way, the New Yorker did not shy away from running a photo of the dead knight's mangled Automobile.

So that's what you get for your $2.95 this week. It makes the National Enquirer look like Highlights for Children.

Pub Date: 9/10/97

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