Lee Siegel (born 1957) is an American 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
'', and other publications.
He is the author of seven books of nonfiction and has received a National Magazine Award
Early life and career
Siegel was born in The Bronx
, New York
. He received his BA from the Columbia University School of General Studies
and his MA and MPhil
from 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. Siegel has been the book critic for ''The Nation'', art critic for ''Slate
'', television critic for and senior editor of ''The New Republic'',
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
He is the author of seven 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), ''Are You Serious? How to Be True and Get Real in the Age of Silly'' (2011), ''Harvard
Is Burning'' (2011), ''Groucho Marx: The Comedy of Existence'' (2016), and ''The Draw'' (2017).
In 2002 Siegel received the National Magazine Award
in the category "Reviews and Criticism".
Jeff Bercovici, writing in ''Media Life Magazine
'', quoted the award citation, which called the essays "models of original thinking and passionate writing... 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".
In 2007 Caryn James
, commenting on ''Not Remotely Controlled'' in the ''New York Times'', said that "at their best, Siegel’s scattershot observations offer a kind of drive-by brilliance," but that he often "wildly overstates his case or ignores inconvenient evidence."
Siegel's 2008 critique of Web
culture, ''Against the Machine: Being Human in the Age of the Electronic Mob'', was called by Janet Maslin
in the ''New York Times
'' "rigorously sane, fair, and illuminating". Maslin noted that, with occasional lapses, it "brings dead-on accuracy to depicting the quietly insinuating ways in which the Internet can blow your mind".
In 2011, Donna Rifkind, writing in ''New York Times Book Review
,'' reviewed ''Are You Serious? How to Be True and Get Real in the Age of Silly,'' calling Siegel "a tireless adversary, battling wrong-headed people and worn-out ideas" but also saying "there is little practical counsel here."
[ Print version July 31, 2011, in the Sunday Book Review.]
Siegel's 2017 memoir, ''The Draw'', was praised in the ''New York Times Book Review'' by Jerald Walker as "brilliant." Walker went on to say, "An assortment of lively characters, hard-edged humor, rich psychological portraits and searing social commentary, ''The Draw'' is spellbinding, a coming-of-age tour de force."
Deceptive posting and suspension
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 Republics website. 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". ''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 early 2007.
Student loan default op-ed
In June 2015, Siegel wrote an op-ed piece for ''The New York Times
'' entitled "Why I Defaulted on My Student Loans",
in which he defended default
ing on the loans he received for living expenses
while on full scholarship
and working his way through college and graduate school at Columbia University, writing that “
e millions of young people today, who collectively owe over $1 trillion in loans, may want to consider my example.”
Economist Susan Dynarski
wrote that Siegel is not typical of student loan defaulters both in that the typical student-loan recipient attends a public university
and in that only two percent of those borrowing to fund a graduate degree default on their loans.
Conservative political commentator Kevin D. Williamson
, writing in ''National Review
'', called it "theft,"
saying that "an Ivy League
degree or three is every much an item of conspicuous consumption
and a status symbol
as a Lamborghini
Senior Business and Economics Correspondent for ''Slate''
Jordan Weissman called it "deeply irresponsible" to suggest that students should consider defaulting on their loans and said that ''The New York Times
'' should apologize for the piece. Siegel's original article was also criticized in ''Business Insider
'' and MarketWatch
. Siegel appeared to further discuss the article on Yahoo! Finance
Siegel lives in Montclair
, New Jersey, with his wife and two children.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."
* Not Remotely Controlled: Notes on Television (2007)
* Against the Machine: Being Human in the Age of the Electronic Mob (2008)
* Are You Serious? How to Be True and Get Real in the Age of Silly (2011)
* Harvard Is Burning (2011)
* Groucho Marx: The Comedy of Existence (2016)
* The Draw (2017)
Video Interview: Against the Machine: Being Human in the Age of the Electronic Mob
at LIVE from the New York Public Library, April 10, 2008
Review of ''Against The Machine'' in salon.com
Category:American cultural critics
Category:Columbia University School of General Studies alumni
Category:Journalists from New York City
Category:People from Montclair, New Jersey
Category:People from the Bronx
Category:The New Yorker people
Category:Writers from New York City