Siegel, Lee 1957-
Siegel, Lee 1957-
Born December 5, 1957.
Home—New York, NY.
Freelance writer, editor. New Republic, New York, NY, senior editor.
National Magazine Award for Reviews and Criticism, 2002.
Falling Upwards: Essays in Defense of the Imagination, Basic Books (New York, NY), 2006.
Not Remotely Controlled: Notes on Television, Basic Books (New York, NY), 2007.
Against the Machine: Being Human in the Age of the Electronic Mob, Spiegel & Grau (New York, NY), 2008.
Contributor to various periodicals, including Slate, New York Review of Books, and the New Republic.
Born December 5, 1957, Lee Siegel is a writer, editor, and journalist known for his harsh but witty critiques of modern culture. Based in New York City, Siegel has written for an array of periodicals, including Slate and the New York Review of Books. However, Siegel is probably best known for his work as a senior editor of the New Republic magazine, as well as his former blog on culture for that publication. In September, 2006, Siegel was temporarily suspended from the magazine, and his blog was discontinued, when it was discovered that Siegel himself had been logging in under an assumed name and posting comments in the "Talkback" section of the online publication. While calling himself "Sprezzatura," Siegel posted feedback that supported some of his own earlier statements on the blog and argued against comments left by readers, in some cases citing them by name. Critics had mixed opinions of the magazine's actions, with some stating that they made far too much of the incident. James Parker, writing for the Boston Globe Online, commented: "The deception, such as it was, was transparent, and we can be sure that any feelings injured by Sprezzatura have been more than soothed by his unmasking. Nonetheless Siegel has been cast beyond the pale of The New Republic, as if he had murdered someone." Parker concluded that "the hasty expunging of his memory by his editors … suggests that it is … laughter—general, irreverent, lapping across the Internet—that they are most afraid of." Siegel himself, in an interview with Boris Kachka for the New York Magazine online a little over a year after the event, remarked: "I just wish people would get over the whole thing. I don't think it's really that big a deal, in the context of everything else that's happening in the culture." He does, however, address the issue in the introduction to his book Against the Machine: Being Human in the Age of the Electronic Mob.
Against the Machine is in part notable as Siegel's first publication to be written following his temporary suspension from the New Republic. In it, he takes a look at the development of the Internet and the ways in which its presence has altered the fabric of society and modern culture. He examines the ways in which the anonymity of the medium creates a world where virtually anything is acceptable. Pornography is all-pervasive, and people routinely create new identities and personas for use online alone. A reviewer for Publishers Weekly found the book to be "insightful and well written with convincing evidence to support Siegel's polemic."
Siegel's earlier efforts include his books Falling Upwards: Essays in Defense of the Imagination and Not Remotely Controlled: Notes on Television. Falling Upwards includes a series of twenty-one essays that Siegel had published previously in various magazines, such as Harper's and the New Yorker. They comment on various areas of modern culture, critiquing everything from the "Harry Potter" series to books by Saul Bellow to Stanley Kubrick's final completed film, Eyes Wide Shut. In Not Remotely Controlled, Siegel critiques the medium of television, examining trends and the effect of various popular programs on society and culture as a whole. He finds fault with comic Jon Stewart and documentary filmmaker Ken Burns but offers praise for the long-standing comedy series Friends. A reviewer for Publishers Weekly noted that, though Siegel indicates a television critic is not actually supposed to criticize programming, he fails to follow his own standard. The reviewer concluded: "Siegel deconstructs as a means to an end: to discern quality programming from drivel."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Booklist, July 1, 2007, Vanessa Bush, review of Not Remotely Controlled: Notes on Television, p. 18.
Christian Century, December 12, 2006, review of Falling Upwards: Essays in Defense of the Imagination, p. 23.
Commonweal, October 12, 2007, Celia Wren, "Culture Critic," p. 35.
Kirkus Reviews, May 15, 2007, review of Not Remotely Controlled; October 15, 2007, review of Against the Machine: Being Human in the Age of the Electronic Mob.
Library Journal, June 15, 2007, Carol J. Binkowski, review of Not Remotely Controlled, p. 73.
New York Times Book Review, July 22, 2007, "TV Guide," p. 23.
Publishers Weekly, May 14, 2007, review of Not Remotely Controlled, p. 46; December 3, 2007, review of Against the Machine, p. 63.
Reference & Research Book News, May, 2007, review of Falling Upwards.
Talk of the Nation, June 28, 2007, "What Makes the TV Industry Tick?"
Bloggers Blog,http://www.bloggersblog.com/ (September 2, 2006), "New Republic Terminates Lee Siegel's Blog."
Boston Globe Online,http://www.boston.com/ (September 10, 2006), James Parker, "We See You, Lee. We See You."
New Republic,http://www.tnr.com/ (February 2, 2008), staff profile.
New York Magazine,http://www.nymag.com/ (January 13, 2008), Boris Kachka, "J'accuser."
Random House Web site,http://www.randomhouse.com/ (February 2, 2008), author profile.