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Coming Back for More

Monica Lewinsky reclaims her fame with "Mr. Personality" and Stephen Glass returns for his sixteenth minute.

7:50 AM, May 14, 2003 • By MATT LABASH
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It could be worse, one supposes. For Lewinsky isn't even responsible for the most degrading reality-television fare this week. That honor goes to former New Republic writer, and serial fabricator, Stephen Glass, who had a back-from-the-dead interview on "60 Minutes." After he was driven from journalism in shame in 1998, I became one of his infrequent defenders at the cocktail parties and crochet circles populated by Washington's chattering asses. And not just because he used to write ripping good stories, which became less so, the more untrue they turned out to be. Whenever his name was uttered, usually in a spray of blood and invective, I'd go contrarian, saying: "Give Glass this much: He's done something nobody does these days who is driven from the stage in shame. He's stayed gone."

But nobody ever stays gone for long. Not when there's self-revealing to do. Not when a major publisher will pay you six figures for your thinly fictionalized version of your heavily fictionalized magazine writing career, in your new novel, "The Fabulist." And so there Glass was on "60 Minutes," flacking his new book, awkwardly transitioning from what he was (a squirrelly little guy) into what he's become (a whiny little girl). He did much better work as the former. For there was a time when sentences like, "Nothing would make me so happy as your liking me once more. But I don't expect that. Not now, not after all that's happened. I can only tell my story and hope for the best "--wouldn't appear dead in a Glass magazine piece. Then again, the latter wasn't true, and sometimes the fictionalized truth is more compelling than the true fiction. Or something like that. I'm confused.

But Glass isn't. He has a new clarity. Of colleagues he's duped, who'd befriended, edited, and even co-bylined with Glass, and whose careers he could've destroyed in his wake, Glass told Steve Kroft: "I didn't want to give an apology when I didn't yet understand why I had done what I had done wrong." And now, after five years, six-figures, and a second novel in the works, he understands! "This is the very beginning of a very, very long process of apologies. I didn't apologize to people because I was so ashamed."

He might be ashamed now, but he'll get over it. They all do. Between him and Lewinsky, they make quite a pair: The Snow-Job Artist and The Blow-Job Artist. It would make one heck of a good reality show.

Matt Labash is senior writer at The Weekly Standard.