Lee Siegel (cultural critic)

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Lee Siegel (born December 5, 1957) is a New York writer and cultural critic who has written for Harper's, The Nation, The New Republic, The New Yorker, The New York Review of Books, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Slate, and many other publications.[1]

Early life and career[edit]

Siegel was born in The Bronx, New York. He received his bachelor of arts degree from the Columbia University School of General Studies and his master's degree and M.Phil. from the Columbia University's Graduate School of Arts and Sciences.

He worked as an editor at The New Leader and ARTnews before turning to writing full-time in 1998. The New York Times Magazine has called him "one of the most eloquent and acid-tongued critics in the country", while The New York Times Book Review remarked on his "drive-by brilliance". David Rieff wrote about Siegel that "to read him is to be reminded of what criticism used to aspire to in terms of range, learning, high standards, and good writing and—dare one say it?—values",[citation needed] and Janet Malcolm has admired the way Siegel "holds the feet of the overpraised and undertalented to the fire of his wicked wit". In The New York Times Book Review, Ross Douthat wrote that Siegel was "the scourge of literary cant", The Guardian has called him "one of the heroic few", and The Times Literary Supplement has praised Siegel as "a rare bird among American critics...boisterous and erudite". His work has been translated into eight languages.[citation needed]

National coverage[edit]

In 2002 Siegel received the National Magazine Award for Reviews and Criticism.[1] The citation lauded Siegel's essays as "models of original thinking and passionate writing... [Siegel's] tough-minded yet generous criticism is prose of uncommon power—work that dazzles readers by drawing them into the play of ideas and the enjoyment of lively, committed debate". Siegel has written several essays for art catalogues, and several introductions to reprinted classics: D. H. Lawrence's The Lost Girl, Gershom Scholem's Story of a Friendship, and Janet Malcolm's In the Freud Archives. He is the author of four books: Falling Upwards: Essays in Defense of the Imagination (2006), Not Remotely Controlled: Notes on Television (2007), Against the Machine: Being Human in the Age of the Electronic Mob (2008), and Are You Serious? How to Be True and Get Real in the Age of Silly (2011, ISBN 978-0-06-176603-9), praised by the New York Times Book Review as "the perfervid forays of a Victorian gentleman collector who's on the hunt through every corner of Western culture for serious and unserious specimens", in a review that went on to characterize Siegel as "a tireless adversary, battling wrong-headed people and worn-out ideas".[2] Siegel is also the author of "Harvard Is Burning".

Siegel has been the book critic for The Nation, art critic for Slate, television critic for and senior editor of The New Republic,[3] staff writer for Talk magazine, staff writer for Harper's, contributing writer for the Los Angeles Times Book Review, associate editor of Raritan, senior columnist for The Daily Beast, and weekly columnist for The New York Observer. In 2011 Siegel served as one of three judges for the PEN/John Kenneth Galbraith Award.

Comments on electronic media[edit]

Siegel is known for coining the term "blogofascism", a term that he meant to describe what he considered the blogosphere's dominant rhetoric of insult, intimidation, and attack, which he claimed was exemplified by Daily Kos founder Markos Moulitsas.[4]

Siegel's critique of Web culture, Against the Machine: Being Human in the Age of the Electronic Mob, was published in January 2008. It was praised by Janet Maslin in the New York Times as "rigorously sane, fair, and illuminating...brings dead-on accuracy to depicting the quietly insinuating ways in which the Internet can blow your mind". On February 14, 2008, Siegel appeared on Jon Stewart's The Daily Show, where he discussed the book.

Deceptive posting and suspension[edit]

In September 2006, Siegel was suspended from The New Republic, after an internal investigation determined he was participating in misleading comments in the magazine's "Talkback" section, in response to criticisms of his blog postings at The New Republic's website and vicious attacks on his character.[5] The comments were made through the device of a "sock puppet" dubbed "sprezzatura", who, as one reader noted, was a consistently vigorous defender of Siegel, and who specifically denied being Siegel when challenged by another commenter in "Talkback". In response to readers who had criticized Siegel's negative comments about TV talk show host Jon Stewart, 'sprezzatura' wrote, "Siegel is brave, brilliant, and wittier than Stewart will ever be. Take that, you bunch of immature, abusive sheep".[6] The New Republic posted an apology and shut down Siegel's blog. In an interview with the New York Times Magazine, Siegel dismissed the incident as a "prank". He resumed writing for The New Republic in April 2007.[7]

Personal life[edit]

Siegel lives in Montclair, New Jersey, with his wife and two children.[8]


  1. ^ a b "The New York Review of Books: Lee Siegel". Nybooks.com. Retrieved 2010-04-13. 
  2. ^ "Library of Congress Catalog: "Falling upwards: essays in defense of the imagination"". Catalog.loc.gov. Retrieved 2010-04-13. 
  3. ^ "Lee Siegel". Thenation.com. Retrieved 2010-04-13. 
  4. ^ "Blog This", The New Republic Online, 22 June 2006; "The Origins of Blogofascism", The New Republic Online, 23 June 2006; "Il.Duce.blogspot.com", The New Republic, 28 July 2006.
  5. ^ Parker, James (2006-09-10). "'We see you, Lee. We see you.' - The Boston Globe". Boston.com. Retrieved 2010-04-13. 
  6. ^ Aspan, Maria (September 4, 2006). "New Republic Suspends an Editor for Attacks on Blog". New York Times. pp. Section C, Page 4. 
  7. ^ "The New Republic". Tnr.com. Retrieved 2010-04-13. [dead link]
  8. ^ Lee Siegel , The Huffington Post. Accessed February 6, 2012. "Lee Siegel is the author, most recently, of Are You Serious: How to Be True and Get Real in the Age of Silly, just out from HarperCollins."

External links[edit]