Let’s! Talk! About! Reading!

There are so many different ways that one can read. One can curl up on the sofa with a good book, poring over pages and pages of prose. One can read by assessing a situation using your instincts or powers of observation, as in “reading a room.” One can also “read” by telling someone about themselves, their flaws, and their failed hopes and dreams in crystal clear terms, leaving no room for doubt and laying waste to any shred of dignity they might dare to possess. And that is the read that we’ve gathered here today to discuss.

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Milo Yiannopoulos, the former Breitbart staffer who is often referred to as a provocateur as if that is an actual job one can put on a 1040-EZ form and not just a nice way of saying “trash-talker,” is suing publisher Simon & Schuster for $10 million after the cancellation of a book deal. Yiannopoulous was supposed to write Dangerous, a typically incendiary screed about feminism, free speech, dog whistle racism, and politics, for a $255,000 advance but found the deal yanked away from him after video surfaced of him appearing to condone pedophilia. He filed suit, claiming the publisher caved to politically correct pressure, because, apparently, this is the year we relitigate how far is too far to go when smiling on relationships between adults and underage people. Who knew?

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In any case, as part of their defense, Simon & Schuster has entered into evidence the manuscript Yiannopoulous submitted, complete with scathing notes from editor Mitchell Ivers and, honey, it is a wild ride.

Ivers fired up his Microsoft Word and proceeded to read Milo for filth and then some. I imagine at some point Clippy showed up with a bowl of popcorn and just cackled.

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You know your life is in shambles when you’re being taken down a peg by the Track Changes function. Anybody who has ever worked with an editor or even a particularly friendly pedant has found themselves on the receiving end of a critique or suggestion that may have bruised the ego. But there’s a big difference between “You should maybe find another way to say this” and “My advice would be to crawl back into the womb, and start everything over again. Whatever you are, whoever you thought you’d become, that’s cancelled.” The Ivers edits are solidly on the latter end of that spectrum.

Actual footage of Ivers’ edits coming for Milo’s entire writing life:

It should be noted that Ivers doesn’t take issue with Milo’s content as much as his method of delivery, but we’ll get to that in a second.

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Because the edits have been entered into evidence, they’re accessible to anyone with the ability to search and an appetite for drama. So, basically, everyone. It wouldn’t be so delicious if Milo didn’t spend his entire career trying to get a rise out of people by punching down.

But… since he does, my advice to you would be to grab a spoon and eat these comments up. They’re delectable.

Ah, yes, whomst among us has not received professional correspondence from a colleagues advising “Let’s leave ‘cuck’ out of it here.” What’s that in the inbox? Oh, just an email from the boss reminding everyone of the “no cucks” policy. Totes normal.

Then, there’s this masterpiece of literary constructive criticism.

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This morning, as you tumbled outta bed and stumbled to the kitchen, pouring yourself a cup of ambition, you may have thought to yourself “It’s highly unlikely that I’ll read the phrase ‘this is not the time or the place for another black-dick joke.'” But you would have been wrong. Let that be a lesson to you: always be prepared to reprimanded about excessive wisecracks about African-American genitals.

The construction of this note is just exquisite. You can almost feel the weariness in the simple sentence. It’s embedded most clearly in the single word “another.” Pour one out for Mitchell Ivers who bought a book from Milo Yiannopoulous, presumably knowing exactly what he was getting himself into, and then, sitting at his desk in his New York office, got to a page that forced him to throw down his glasses, throw up his hands, and cry out, “This is one black-dick joke too many! Enough is enough!”

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One wonders how many came before this one. (That’s what he said.)

The comments, as captured by software engineer Sarah Mei on Twitter, continue to escalate to almost farcical levels.

Everything is going very well here.

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At one point, Ivers writes “Delete entire chapter.” Always the mark of a work of literary genius.

In some instances, the comments removed from their execrable context, rise to the level of non sequitur artwork.

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I don’t understand the note; I don’t want to understand the note; I will, nevertheless, frame the note on my wall.

More high praise.

In an age when schadenfreude and shade are a regular part of a healthy diet, the wave of blustery, bewildered comments from Yiannopoulous’ editor is a true delight. But, like most fun things this year, its undergirded by an almost unimaginable ugliness that is impossible to ignore. Though much of what Yiannopoulous wrote was a bridge too far for the publisher, it seems the reason was not because it was contentious, outrageous, purposefully hurtful, or incendiary, but because it lacked proper rhetorical backing.

The truth is, if Milo had submitted a well-written screed about targeting a black woman for online harassment, as he did to Leslie Jones, derisive opinions on the LGBTQ communities, petty insults about women, feminists, liberals, and anyone else who caught his ire, it would be on bookshelves right now. His major fault was not that he didn’t know how to read the room; the room was on his side. His major fault was that he didn’t know how to write.



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