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Author Gets Snappy Over Weingarten Profile

Tom Bartlett, author of Washingtonian‘s December feature on WaPo humor columnist Gene Weingarten, didn’t care for my take on his piece.

In my post, I wrote that Weingarten, who has won two Pulitzers for feature writing, manipulated Bartlett’s writing. Weingarten recounted an anecdote “knowing it would end up in print” and told Bartlett to take note of his weird napkin-tearing habit over lunch (both wound up in the article). Bartlett got all huffy and shared his many grievances in the comments section:

“I don’t see how I was manipulated in either case you cite. I wrote that Weingarten was aware that the seat belt story was on-the-record because that helped make my overall point that Weingarten tends to divulge his faults and quirks. And I tell the napkin story AND note the fact that he pointed it out for the same reason. Plus, it seemed kind of funny.

“He didn’t try to backseat drive that story. He never once asked what was going to be in it, who I talked to, or anything. He didn’t tell me what to write — the napkin thing was a playful aside. Which I thought was obvious.”

A special note to Bartlett: You thought my post was about you. Don’t be so vain. It wasn’t. It was about profiling a profiler, which is a bit like performing surgery on a surgeon. In that case, the patient would likely have tips for his doctor. And that’s how Bartlett’s feature on Weingarten came across.

Bartlett also took exception with my question as to whether Weingarten actually had Hepatitis C, which isn’t all that far-fetched considering he lied to his son about his sister drowning in a swimming pool because she backed the car into it and couldn’t unbuckle herself. That was a funny one.

“But it’s your hepatitis paragraph that takes the cake. You casually raise the possibility, based on zero evidence, that he might have been faking a deadly disease — which would be a HUGE DEAL if true — then you get all sniffy when he tells you he wasn’t.”

Um…“Sniffy”? If that involves illegal narcotics, I don’t want any part of it.

I asked Weingarten about whether he actually had the disease because, as included in Bartlett’s feature, he wrote in his book, The Hypochondriac’s Guide to Life. And Death (2001), that he would likely die from it. Yet, here he is a decade later, disease free. Seems reasonable to ask.

One final note: I tried getting in touch with Bartlett before writing my post, but it seems the Washingtonian, who let him write the six-page (online version) feature, has misplaced his contact information.

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