Like his fellow critics-cum-essayists Greil Marcus and Greg Tate, Sragow is eager to locate highbrow cultural resonance in a popular art form thought by many to be particularly lacking in depth. His weekly one-page treatises are always interesting, even when he's all wrong.
That's what makes "Identity Crisis" (Sept. 24) such a disappointing, fascinating mess. For the first time in my own experience as a Sragow reader, Michael sounded like a, well, critic. His methodology -- inserting intriguing pop-cultural references (Face/Off, Tom Hanks, Mall of America) into a pre-developed construct (the American movie, and thus the American way of life [or vice versa], is spiraling toward a "unifying banality" epitomized by megamalls) smacks of the same tired intellectual hucksterism usually employed by critics about half as smart as Sragow.
But the failures of this piece go beyond method and execution and well into a sort of ironic tragedy. "Identity Crisis" seems to suffer a crisis of its own about halfway through. With each puzzling numbered and titled "section," the essay loses more and more clarity, prompting the reader to reflect on Sragow's own "fugue" state. Is "Identity Crisis," with its colorful, Hollywood-style cover graphics, movie-star snapshots, five-star vocab, literati quotes, pull quotes, grand design, and absence of substance, merely a perverse example of Sragow's very concerns? If a piece includes enough intellectual pretense, such as important-sounding subtitles and Shakespeare quotes, will America's mall-walkers accept it as quality writing? Did Sragow purposefully give us a piece full of sound and fury, signifying you-know-what?
I'm still a Sragow fan, of course. I look forward to Michael's next feature-length piece, and count this one as a truly bizarre aberration.
South San Francisco
Thank you for printing Tara Shioya's article on police brutality in Sonoma County ("Duck! You're in Wine Country," Sept. 17). The urban Bay Area needs to know about the depth of racism and corruption that occurs only one hour north of the Golden Gate Bridge.
Police officers are being given the power of judge, jury, and executioner, and the public is conned into thinking that this somehow makes our world a safer place.
P.S. We tried to get the Bay Guardian to cover this story months ago, but the reporter wanted us to do the research and info-gathering. Thank you to Shioya for her work.
Salomon Hernandez Justice Committee/
El Comite por Justicia Para Salomon
Due to a production error, the last name of the writer of the epigraph in last week's cover story, "Identity Crisis," was lopped off. The full name is De Crevecoeur.
The Sept. 3 Bay View on tradable pollution credits, "The Sky's the Limit," stated that polluters in the program could only use the Pacific Stock Exchange auction. They can also trade credits through brokers or among themselves. SF Weekly apologizes for the error.