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December 6, 2011 8:41 AM   Subscribe

How Do You Explain Gene Weingarten? (Via).

Weingarten has been featured on Metafilter before, most notably for the two stories that won him Pulitzer Prizes, mentioned in the above profile:

* Fatal Distraction: Article / Mefi Post
* Pearls before Breakfast: Article / Mefi Post / MeTa Post.

And for:
* The Peekaboo Paradox: Article / Mefi Post
* The Ghost of the Hardy Boys: Article / MeFi Post
* The Car That Goes Whoosh: Article / MeFi Post

"None of the Above" is mentioned at the end of the profile.

A preview of the book "The Fiddler in the Subway," a collection of some of his better columns, is available at Google Books.

Weingarten's humor column is Below the Beltway. He conducts a live, online chat (see transcripts at Chatological Humor) every Tuesday with Washington Post readers.

The Barney and Clyde comic.

Mother Jones (2010): Secrets of a Two-Time Pulitzer Winner.
posted by zarq (26 comments total) 21 users marked this as a favorite
Meant to mention this in the post, but forgot: The Peekaboo Paradox is the story of the Great Zucchini.
posted by zarq at 8:49 AM on December 6, 2011

His feature writing is great. His humor writing is very not-great, though in humor, that's all very subjective. His comic is very hit/miss. He took over for Dave Barry, but that was a loss for us all. His chats can be entertaining.

I never dug in enough to see if his self-aggrandizing is just a schtick or his real persona, but I found it such a turn off I stopped reading his chats and humor columns.
posted by k5.user at 8:50 AM on December 6, 2011

Well, when a Mommy Weingarten and a Daddy Weingarten love each other very much...
posted by Naberius at 8:50 AM on December 6, 2011 [1 favorite]

His article about an isolated community in Alaska was pretty good, also.
Lately? She counted in her head. Four in the past year. But those are just the ones that succeeded. Lately, she said, there have been as many as six unsuccessful attempts in a single month, among people from ages 13 to 18.

This is in a place with a total population of 700.
posted by empath at 8:53 AM on December 6, 2011 [3 favorites]

He explains himself pretty well:

He once wrote, in reference to Dave Barry, "I simply do what he does, only worse."
posted by mrgrimm at 8:53 AM on December 6, 2011 [2 favorites]

I pass his house nearly every day on my walk to work, and regularly see him, his wife, his son, and/or various dogs. I know which car he drives.

I'm not stalking him. No, I'm not.
posted by MrMoonPie at 8:54 AM on December 6, 2011

His humor writing is very not-great, though in humor, that's all very subjective

It's very cheesy and safe. I used to really love the Style Invitation when I actually got the Post at home. I don't know if he still does that anymore. I can't imagine that he has the time.
posted by empath at 8:55 AM on December 6, 2011

Nthing the "features are great/humor 'column' is not" thing about Weingarten. I think he has about five themes that he creates variations of for the weekly column. Though I do approve and support his DC Scavenger Hunt thingy.
posted by kuanes at 8:56 AM on December 6, 2011

We all have our coping strategies.
posted by Apropos of Something at 9:11 AM on December 6, 2011

I find his feature writing not that great, either. The premise of "The Fiddler on the Subway" was pretty bs, for one thing.
posted by Chrysostom at 9:19 AM on December 6, 2011

I really like him. I like people that vacillate between funny and serious and his chats are always entertaining.

Battle Mountain: Armpit Of America is my favorite, though. Especially since I've been through there.

Here's his reaction to today's story, btw.
posted by jenfullmoon at 10:42 AM on December 6, 2011 [1 favorite]

I don't know how to explain him, but his daughter Molly was the student assistant a few years ago once when I took my cat in to the university vet school for a checkup (Cornell). She was a little odd (maybe just because she wasn't desperately over-eager like so many of the vet student assistants are?) but she seemed competent enough. Somehow it did come up in the course of my cat's exam that her father is a well known newspaper columnist who writes embarrassing things about her in his column, though, which in retrospect seems strange.
posted by aught at 11:06 AM on December 6, 2011

"Pears Before Breakfast" earned him a Pulitzer? :(
posted by Pruitt-Igoe at 11:50 AM on December 6, 2011

“He’s interested in human beings,” Stuever says. “Visible panty lines, farts, turds—all of that is desperately human. It’s horrifying, but it’s interesting. It’s gross, but it’s interesting.”

Something about that resonated with me.

Thanks for posting this, zarq. I've read a few of his articles (and I continue to skip over the one about the child dying), but I never associated them with a name before. It's a fascinating look at an interesting man, and I think I'll remember the name.
posted by Rory Marinich at 12:03 PM on December 6, 2011

Rory Marinich: "Thanks for posting this, zarq.

You're very welcome!

I've read a few of his articles (and I continue to skip over the one about the child dying), but I never associated them with a name before.

Funny how that can happen, isn't it?

The Fatal Distraction article, the one about the children being left in their car seats was... awful. Heartwrenching. I had to stop reading it about halfway through because it made me cry. I'd have skipped it if I'd known in advance what it said.

Oh, and there was also a MeTa post.


I know a lot of people were not enamored with it, but I enjoyed the Pearls before Breakfast article. He's also the author of one of my all-time favorite pieces of writing: And God Said Let There Be Light in Kansas.
posted by zarq at 12:26 PM on December 6, 2011

Cool, thanks zarq! As the person who posted The Great Zucchini (aka "The Peekaboo Paradox"), it was fun to learn that almost everyone considers it his best piece. To this day reading that story was a singular experience -- almost physical, like the cliche of getting gut punched. I like the others a lot -- including "Pearls Before Breakfast" (what's with the hate?), but nothing comes close to The Great Zucchini for me (I haven't read the car seat story for the same reasons cited by others).
posted by pardonyou? at 12:37 PM on December 6, 2011 [1 favorite]

Actually, inspired by some of the other articles about him, I finally read the one about the abandoned children. It's powerful and tragic, but somehow – forgive me if this is the wrong word – comforting. It allows the parents who let the unthinkable happen to their kids remain human. I love that Weingarten focused on the mother who seemed the coldest and most callous, and worked away at her until he got at what made her human.
posted by Rory Marinich at 12:58 PM on December 6, 2011 [3 favorites]

Reading that breathtaking "babies in car seats" article, I wondered what kind of person could do that kind of interview, ask those questions, probe to those awful places. I didn't know any of his other work. But I guess it takes kind of an offbeat personality to be able to do that. My god that was powerful writing.
posted by ThatCanadianGirl at 1:33 PM on December 6, 2011 [1 favorite]

I've loved his work since I moved to DC, where he is very much a local legend. I didn't realize that the Great Zucchini article was his, though that one has stuck with me for years. (Incidentally, I'm doing spotlight work for a British Pantomime show right now, and at one point the characters make a passing reference to The Great Zucchini, and a bell rang off in my head that, yeah, I guess this guy is still a big damn deal in the area.)

I see now that he probably feels a great deal of kinship with Zucchini - two wildly popular entertainers with slovenly, odd personal lives who can;t quite put a finger on what makes people love them so, and so are hesitantly riding that train without really understanding it.
posted by Navelgazer at 3:39 PM on December 6, 2011

OK, just read the Great Zucchini article. Last time I saw it I didn't get past the first page. Indeed, Weingarten has a style like peeling an onion. By the end, wow.
posted by dhartung at 5:33 PM on December 6, 2011

Such a hack.
posted by bardic at 7:19 PM on December 6, 2011 [2 favorites]

Love him and make a point of hanging out during his chats. And god, the children in cars article was so incredible. Just...bravura writing.
posted by PussKillian at 8:26 PM on December 6, 2011

I love the chats and long pieces. Don't read Below the Beltway much. btw the chats are now monthly w/weekly updates - next one is 1/3.
posted by oneear at 8:42 PM on December 6, 2011

Where's scrump been? :(
posted by Han Tzu at 11:57 PM on December 7, 2011

I saw Gene Weingarten carrying a bag of dog poop this morning.
posted by MrMoonPie at 7:19 AM on December 8, 2011

Help Gene win an AK-47
posted by exogenous at 10:48 AM on December 29, 2011 [1 favorite]

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