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To the editor: Lee Siegel's ridicule and swipes are...

September 15, 2002

To the editor:

Lee Siegel's ridicule and swipes are full of misstatements about the Partisan Review conference (Book Review, Aug. 11), beginning with the age of the magazine and facts about its earlier symposium. Had he been present during my introduction, he would have known why I now included "science and technology"; that Ray Kurzweil has received rewards for his inventions from every American president since Lyndon Johnson. He would have known that the one person who dozed off was the reporter for the New York Sun. And that attendance lagged at midday because professors and students were giving and taking final exams.

Norman Podhoretz did not shout his prepared paper, although he was sharp after a member of the audience implied that the Sept. 11 attack was America's just deserts. Yes, one (possibly) homeless man came to eat our lunches, as did reporters who did not want to buy their own. Should I have thrown anyone out?

Clearly Siegel came to smear and sneer, and to put down accomplished writers by accusing them of "embracing the capitalist system," and so on. In fact, his "report" was not addressing liberals, but the irresponsible fringe of the left by twisting, for instance, Ozick's, Pryce-Jones' and Olitski's talks.

His ad hominem attacks on "septuagenarian and octogenarian participants" are what in other contexts he might call "ageism." Were it applied to, for instance, Noam Chomsky or Howard Zinn, he might sue.

The transcripts of this conference can be read in Partisan Review No. 4, which will be on newsstands in October.

Edith Kurzweil

Editor, Partisan Review

New York

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