Bye-bye, Lileks

As a small tremor in a bit of a staff shakeup at the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, James Lileks got the axe — he’s been demoted from a guy with a regular column to a beat reporter. It’s about time.

He’s not a bad writer, in the sense that he does have his own recognizable voice, but yeesh, he’s such a banal writer, the epitome of Minnesota mediocrity. Some of his online writings are cranky-grandpa interesting, the rantings of a deranged 9/11 wingnut, but his newspaper column … dull, dull, dull. You only need to read one column in your life about a guy who goes shopping at Target and watches TV before he goes to bed, anything more is superfluous.

If you’re unfamiliar with our local columnist, here’s an analogy to help you understand: Lileks is the Garfield of the Star-Tribune. He’s technically competent, entirely predictable, and so boring he’s not even mildly amusing any more. They also don’t even need him to provide right-wing balance to the paper now, since they hired Katherine Kersten (she’s the Mallard Fillmore of the paper: screechy, inane, and incompetent). I haven’t read a Lileks column for years, not because I resent him or am somehow boycotting him or am even angered by him — I’ve tuned him out for the same reason I don’t read the recipes for yet-another casserole. He puts me to sleep.

(via Norwegianity)


  1. says

    PZ! Check your HTML! Your italics runneth over.

    No tears for Lileks over here, though. His online output of actual comedy – “Interior Desecrations” and that cookbook collection of his – are far funnier than anything he’s managed in his Strib column anyway. I understand they originally hired him away from the Pioneer Press to produce “Backfence”, some weak and poorly envisioned response to the PP’s popular “Bulletin Board” section. Last I noticed they’d relegated him to a smallish square section a couple pages off the TV listings and abandoned the prentense of reader input altogether. I’d consider this a mercy killing.

  2. Interrobang says

    Interior Desecrations would have been funnier without the weird little political comments. Cripe, Interior Desecrations would have been funnier if I’d written it, and I’m not really anybody’s idea of a comedian.

    The phrase “Lileks has jumped the shark” occurs.

  3. Carlie says

    I will admit that Lilek’s blog was the first one I ever read. A friend of mine sent me a link to the Gallery of Regrettable Food, and I moved over from there to his, what are these things? “blog” (albeit without comments, so is it really a blog?). I was amused for quite a time – he seemed kind of like Garrison’s less popular cousin, and I did like a lot of the Institute entries. I got tired of the same schtick over and over after awhile, though. Finally grew out of it, I guess.

  4. Steve_C (Secular Elitist) FCD says

    Here’s a Romney/Washington Post blunder….

    “It seems that Europe leads Americans in this way of thinking,” Romney told the crowd of more than 5,000. “In France, for instance, I’m told that marriage is now frequently contracted in seven-year terms where either party may move on when their term is up. How shallow and how different from the Europe of the past.”

    Apparently Romney confuses fiction with ummm…fiction? And the Post quotes him without comment on the weirdness.

  5. PeterM says

    I lived in Minneapolis a few years ago and thought he was amusing for about a month, but then sameness set in.

    The few right wing rants of his that I read were atrocious.

  6. speedwell says

    I used to read Lileks religiously, back when I was, um, religious. Then when I became an atheist I suppose I not coincidentally became muy tired of his relentless, studied normalness. I mean, his Gallery of Regrettable Food is plenty funny, and who doesn’t love cute little girls and nice doggies? But girls grow up, and the joke gets told, and the dog is, when all is said and done, somebody else’s dog, and reading the same old stuff starts making you tap your foot wondering when he’s actually going to get to the point already. Oh, well.

  7. says

    I first became aware of Lileks from his website before I ever read any of his newspaper columns. Why his columns were so dull yet his website so funny is a mystery to me, too.

  8. Abbie says

    I like his website. He is a bit milquetoast, now that I think about it, but I have a soft spot for the genre.

  9. says

    Interesting. Now that the Star-Tribune is no longer under McClatchy management, it starts to spiff up its editorial page. Cool. McClatchy is much bigger than it used to be (even after divesting itself of the Strib), but stodgier, too. The string of Bees in California (Sacramento, Modesto, and Fresno) used to be comparatively liberal newspapers. Now they’re pap. Maybe they’ll hire Lileks!

  10. PipeUp says

    Aw, now you’re just being mean, PZ… I have to offer my respectful dissent to the majority.

    I like Lileks’ blog and I enjoy the boring normality of his column, even when I disagree with his particular politics from time to time. OK, OK, I’m a square from Dullsville. After the Gallery of Regrettable Food and Mommy Knows Worst I can forgive him a lot.

    Occasionally, his deadpan bon mots have allowed me to perform the holy miracle of passing milk through my nose.

  11. Amy says

    I can’t stand his politics, but the ‘Gallery of Regrettable Foods’ is one of the funniest things I’ve ever read. I’ve had it about five years, and it’s still funny!

    Unfortunately, I suspect we’ll see more of Lileks the right-wing hack than Lileks the comedian in the days to come.

  12. NickM says

    Lilek’s Regrettable Food writing proves that he can perceive nuance and irony, which makes his political writing all the more disturbing. For him, politics is all about fear and anger, and there’s no room for thinking, except when you’re trying to justify the Administration’s latest atrocity.

  13. says

    I suspect that Lileks getting the boot is less about the humor content of his column, and more about newspapers these days being run by cheap bastards.

    That being said, I shed no tears for his departure, and I hope some more newspapers get cheap with their right-wing thug columnists.

  14. says

    I just read on the Dump Michelle Bachmann blog that the considerably more unpleasant Katherine Kersten has been asked to do the same thing. I think that the results will be much more amusing. But before anyone starts jumping up and down it’s not a liberal media thing – Doug Grow (much more liberal columnist) is in the same boat.

    For the record I really enjoy Lileks’ work – it doesn’t have to be fascinating all the time but it has a nice rhythm to it.

  15. says

    That’s only Michele Bachmann’s claim. I’ve emailed Katherine Kersten to ask whether Bachmann’s claim is correct.