Thursday, August 9, 2012

Beasts of the southern weird

Posted By on 08.09.12 at 03:06 PM

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A few weeks ago Marc Smirnoff was fired as the editor of (one of my favorite magazines!) the Oxford American, which he founded in 1992. His longtime girlfriend, Carol Ann Fitzgerald, got the ax too. Things got strange pretty quickly—the two were locked out of the office, there was a mysterious "investigation" into them, and many people were saying many unkind things on Internet comment boards about Smirnoff's reputation. Then things got stranger: the other day Smirnoff (with some nominal help from Fitzgerald, apparently, though it looks to be mostly his project) launched a website that's called—my hand to god—editorsinlove.com, with which he intends to exonerate himself.

There are a couple ancillary pages that include things like a brief introduction to each firee. On Smirnoff's he says his favorite quote is "The pen is mightier than the sword." Getting-to-know-you aside, the action's on the home page—editorsinlove.com, in case you've forgotten—where there are some 20,000 words of text in which Smirnoff lays out everything that's ever happened to him in his entire life, or at least in the last month or so. Also contact information for everybody involved in the affair. And some editorial observations: "The hubris! It's almost poetic," for instance. And "MORAL: In 'internal investigations,' power belongs to the most cunning."

Today the New York Times has a story that lays out the details in a way that mostly corroborates Smirnoff's novella but in shorter form. The former editor is accused of sexually harassing an intern, and while Smirnoff basically agrees with the case against him, the confusion is on the sort of what-is-is level, is here having to do with trying to hold an intern's hand and taking her to a favored "make-out spot."

In an interview at his home in Conway, Mr. Smirnoff said his touching of employees was always "paternalistic and nonsexual." He assigned a benign playfulness to his behavior and said his motivation was crucial to understanding his position.

"I understand that I walk a fine line with my joking, my banter," Mr. Smirnoff said, comparing himself to the bumbling boss played by Ricky Gervais on "The Office." "I have made bad jokes. My intent with regards to that humor is just as important."

Ricky Gervais isn't the only cultural touchstone. Faulkner makes an appearance. And also this: "Slouched in a living-room chair, gesturing wildly and sprinkling his sentences with quotations from Shakespeare, Mr. Smirnoff gave a detailed account of the July 4 party on Petit Jean Mountain, a short drive west of Conway." Is Blagojevichian an adjective yet? Let's make it so: the guy comes off a bit Blagojevichian.

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