READ THE WHOLE ARTICLE
Messud had been asked whether anybody would want to be friends with her protagonist—unlikeable character alert!—and she responded by asking whether anybody would want to be friends with a Philip Roth or Martin Amis or Junot Diaz character.
Roiphe complains that Messud took the “That question is sexist” off-ramp when she could have given a more substantive answer. Robin then quotes paragraph upon paragraph in which Messud does give a substantive answer, along the exact lines Roiphe had called for. The only way Roiphe could have missed this is by not reading the original interview:
Now, all of these passages appear in the interview Roiphe chooses to hoist her theory of everything on. Where they don’t appear is in the brief Salon excerpt of that interview that I linked to at the top of the piece and which Roiphe apparently based her musings on. I know it can be a chore to follow the links and read all of a writer’s words before you criticize them—believe me, I know—but if you want to have an ounce of credibility, even Roiphe credibility, you probably should.
This is the second instance in the past forty-eight hours of a writer basing a hatchet job off an excerpt or general impression of a work rather than the actual text. Yesterday, Howard Kurtz was fired from the Daily Beast for a real low takedown piece claiming Jason Collins tried to hide that he was once engaged to a woman, when Collins had openly written about it in his Sports Illustrated coming-out piece (that is looking more and more impressive for its candor); the only way Kurtz could have missed that was by not reading the article he was criticizing in a major national publication.
Full disclosure: I haven’t read the Messud interview or the full Collins piece. I’m also not writing sneering takedowns of them.