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February 05, 2019


The article seemed pretty banal to me. Most professions and industries have wrongdoers who are flushed out from time to time -- the attorney overbilling clients, the bookkeeper pocketing petty cash -- but those people don't generally get written up in the New Yorker unless the misconduct is on a massive scale (e.g., Enron).

From experience with a sibling, now estranged by his choice from the rest of the family, people like this wear you down and wear you out.

The bullshit is so layered and detailed and possesses just barely enough grounding in the possibly true that you can only stand back and marvel.

Arguing any point of it is a quick trip down a rat hole.

They will sabotage any attempt to help them, so you stop.

It's impossible to detect whether or not the purveyor of the bullshit believes the bullshit coming out of his or her mouth.

The bullshitter tries out different lines of bullshit on each individual around them, somehow keenly gauging, while appearing to be cracked-out nuts, who might buy which version of the crap the bullshitter is selling.

Their lives are a cobbled-together novel of unlikely crapola.

You end up nodding like a mark and keeping your own counsel as you back out of the room for self-preservation.

You no longer are able to make eye contact with them because if you do your skin crawls.

You compare the bullshit stories, lies, and fantastic explanations with others in the know and hysterical laughter degenerates into quiet acknowledgement that the subject is just plain sick.

You cast back through the years and try to piece together explanations for the cause, perhaps blaming yourself and others, and every life is chock full of reasons to go off-kilter, but finally you reach a point of exhaustion and conclude simply, as my nephew summed it up about his uncle ... my brother, "He is one sick fuck."

Which is as good of a diagnosis as any professional might come up with.

But it's going around, now infesting the highest reaches of the government and the electorate. It's nearly civilization-wide.

America itself has become a bipolar sociopath.

The subject of the New Yorker profile is clearly a super-manipulative individual, probably a psychopath or sociopath, or at the very least with a serious personality disorder, maybe with elements of Munchausen's or Munchausen's by proxy. But as to whether this is anything much to do with the publishing industry, I can't really see why it should be (apart from, as someone has said, "Fiction writer makes stuff up. Duh."). The world of high finance apparently has an unusual number of psychopathic people at the top (can't remember where the study I read some years ago came from), because their combination of qualities helps them in that environment (e.g. dispassionate about the implications of possibly impoverishing investors), and I've read the same is true of many top surgeons (e.g. dispassionate about cutting into living people), so the difference here seems mainly to be the lying. And I guess we've all read plenty of stories about e.g. academics and doctors making up their qualifications and not being found out for years, so even the lying doesn't seem that specific to publishing. That's my (rather superficial) take, anyway.

Because of quick skimming, missed the Vox article and just went straight to the New Yorker piece. But after reading the Vox thing, I pretty much stand by what I said above, with the exception that a plausible, educated white male would clearly find it easier to scam people in an industry where those qualities are advantages (probably most industries actually).

America itself has become a bipolar sociopath.

Hard to argue with this, but it's a scary diagnosis given what the rest of the Count's comment said about how impossible it is to deal with someone like that.


I agree with GftNC about the Mallory article. The Vox article struck me as a good example of how to a person with no other tool but a hammer, everything looks like a nail. On one side of the coin, and as others have already said, the publishing industry is hardly unique in allowing white men to "fail upward" more easily than other groups. On the other side of the coin, the saga (and tragedy?) of a Dan Mallory is much too complex to be reduced to gender issues.

Thanks all, a useful grounding. I skimmed the Vox article, and then went to the New Yorker and was totally pulled in by the story and the detail, and thought it must be karma to end up on the short end of New Yorker's fact checkers.

JanieM: ... the publishing industry is hardly unique in allowing white men to "fail upward" more easily than other groups.

Ayup. The publishing industry takes a distant back seat to the religion industry in that respect.


Never heard of the guy - when I read the NY article, I initially thought it was a rather good short story fiction (to the extent that I broke off halfway through to google him).

Much easier, of course, to start down such a scamster road a decade and a half back - before factchecking resumes online became second nature - particularly while hopping across the Atlantic in the course of it.

Don't feel the need to buy his book.

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