... is that embarrassing ledes like this one are allowed to run, and at the New York Times, no less.
I really wanted to pan this book. First of all, with the exception of Walker Percy’s “Moviegoer,” I tend to dislike literature about New Orleans (oh the decadence! the quaintness!), and publicity copy for “The House on First Street” boasted about Julia Reed’s “colorful” critique of the city’s “rich flavor.” It’s also a Hurricane Katrina memoir. I’d considered writing my own Katrina memoir, and now I realize I probably never will. True, my own house in New Orleans was reduced to a moldy ruin, and Reed’s had nothing but a broken window, but hers — previously owned by Percy’s brother Phin (fun fact) — is a 6,000-square-foot Greek Revival landmark in the historic Garden District, while my house is a 1,400-square-foot cottage in the (comparatively) raffish neighborhood of Gentilly. And not only is Julia Reed a lot richer than I, she has better journalistic cred: as an evacuee, I wrote a few columns for Slate, while Reed was bombarded with assignments from Newsweek, The Spectator and Vogue, her main employer, whose editors received an e-mail message from Reese Witherspoon, no less, asking if Reed was O.K.
One is probably not supposed to bite that hand that feeds one, but we cannot imagine that any Times reader is remotely as interested in Blake Bailey as he appears to be in himself.