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Susan Sarandon, Smear Artist

From The Scrapbook

Oct 31, 2011, Vol. 17, No. 07 • By THE SCRAPBOOK
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John Grogan, quite the puppy diarist himself as the author of the bestselling Marley and Me, thinks Abramson’s book is a “worthy addition to the crowded so-called
dogoir genre.” Not to be outdone, William Styron’s daughter Alexandra declares that Abramson “has vanquished the writer’s self-regarding pose” and “comes up with a golden retriever of a memoir.” As a cat person, we thought this might be an insult, except that Styron goes on to explain that Puppy Diaries is “unaffected, unironic,” and “should hit the wide, heart-shaped mark cultivated by dog fanciers everywhere.” 

And though Styron warns that “sentimental notions and flights of extreme anthropomorphism abound in The Puppy Diaries,” she is quick to point out that “Abramson seems confident of her congenial audience.” And why shouldn’t she be confident? Both of these reviews appear in (drum roll please) .  .  . the New York Times. Yes, the very same New York Times where Abramson is the new boss.

Despite this seeming conflict of interest, The Scrapbook is inclined to give Abramson and her publicity agent—um, newspaper—the benefit of the doubt. Is it really so hard to believe that the book offers a “candid glimpse .  .  . into the softer, personal—yes, even cuddly—side of one of the world’s most influential opinion shapers”? After all, Abramson is “a prize-winning investigative reporter.” Of course she “writes with intelligence and grace and never descends into the saccharine.” Why, just look at this graceful and intelligent passage: “Besides looking for any excuse to inhale that irresistible puppy smell, I felt a reflexive urge to cover the top of Scout’s soft head with kisses.”

We can hardly dispute Grogan’s charge that “some readers will be looking to brand [Abramson] elitist,” but we sympathize with his contention that this is unfair. So what if she fed her first dog “rosemary dusted chicken and wild Alaskan sockeye salmon”? She has had to deal with the same doggie dilemmas as even the lowliest, non-prize-winning investigative reporter, like Scout’s “relieving herself in the middle of the Duxiana mattress” ($5,000 and up, in case you were wondering), and “trying to swipe a chicken from an outdoor table at Locanda Verde.” And her “voice is bighearted and surprisingly down to earth”—even if she is “a powerful journalist few would dream of discounting.” 

Like Styron and Grogan, The Scrapbook wouldn’t dream of discounting Abramson. She runs the New York Times, after all. As we all know, the Gray Lady’s stout commitment to objectivity is the very light that guides her through the shadowy caverns of modern life in search of all the news that’s fit to print—and stuff like this, that isn’t.

Sentences We Didn’t Finish

"Huntsman will almost certainly fail, but that doesn’t make what he is doing any less important. He’s betting everything—“a Vegas move,” he called it—that there is still some constituency in the Republican Party for reason .  .  . ” (Dana Milbank, Washington Post, October 18).

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