Lewis and Liz

What Everyone Is Talking About

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NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- Plenty may disagree with his politics, but most consider Lewis H. Lapham one of the chief intellectual, erudite writers working today. So Watercooler was just a bit surprised when we learned that Mr. Lapham will be inducted into the Magazine Editors' Hall of Fame on Feb. 1 with an introduction by the New York Post's Liz Smith.
Kindred spirits?: Lewis Lapham and Liz Smith
Kindred spirits?: Lewis Lapham and Liz Smith

After all, these honors are generally introduced by kindred spirits. When Hearst Magazines President Cathleen P. Black received her Henry Johnson Fisher Award at last year's event, her presenter was Pat Carbine, who with Gloria Steinem founded Ms. magazine, where Ms. Black got early experience. William F. Buckley was inducted into last year's Hall of Fame by Tom Wolfe; each man helped define an era through their magazine endeavors.

Now, Ms. Smith's columns are a great gossipy read, and her career has certainly been as long and storied as Lapham's. But sample three sentences from her Golden Globes column this morning: "Loved Jennifer Hudson's teary salute to the late Supreme, Florence Ballard, whose tragic story is the basis of 'Dreamgirls' ... Loved Eddie Murphy's low-key acceptance, as if it weren't the most important thing in his world, and also Jamie Foxx, who seems to be the unelected cheerleader for this movie musical ... Loved the big kiss Emily Blunt got from her boyfriend, singer Michael Buble."

Compare that with one of the paragraphs from Mr. Lapham's recent "Notebook" columns for Harper's, where his 30-year run as editor ended only last spring.

"Because the war on terror, like the war on poverty or the war on drugs, is a work of the bureaucratic imagination, the winning of it is a matter of filling out forms, acting professional, addressing the contingencies, adding office staff," Mr. Lapham writes. "Everything that could be done was being done, and in New York, as in Washington and Baghdad, the resident experts commanding the fight against the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse were sending forth into battle a mighty host of paper -- heavier-caliber bullets, faster computers, stronger acronyms, the Department of Homeland Security armed with ninety echelons of classified information, the New York City Fire Department capable of responding with the span of four minutes to big trouble with any one of the four medieval elements, the city's hospitals assisted by technicians capable of distinguishing different kinds of radioactive isotope, twenty-eight databases placed at the disposal of the National Counterterrorism Center, precisely measured evacuation rates for each of New York City's five boroughs, a 900-page document drawn up as a remedy for hurricanes."

A Harper's spokeswoman said Ms. Smith was chosen because she was a fun New York fixture in media and society. "She was a glamorous attractive choice," the spokeswoman said. "She loves Lewis and she quotes him a lot."

"We were thinking about Alec Baldwin," she added, "but he just couldn't do it because of his taping schedule for '30 Rock.'"

Well after a lifetime in letters, we suppose everyone deserves a little glamour.
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