Saturday, February 25, 2006

Mrs Harris

As a poet without a television, I’ve been maligned as a snob. But I follow TV assiduously in magazines and papers. This weekend HBO is premiering Mrs Harris. A quarter century ago Jean Harris murdered her boyfriend Hy Tarnower, inventor of the Scarsdale Diet, because he was leaving her for a younger woman. I read Diana Trilling’s book on Mrs Harris. Jean Harris was well-educated and a prig and snob, and so was Trilling. John Leonard started out imitating the highly-serious Trillings, writing TV criticism on the side and pseudonymously. But over the years Leonard has changed his views. He's now the TV critic for New York magazine, and writes in the current issue: “Harris and Hy were reality TV before its time. Out there in public on the nightly news, the well born, the overeducated, and swishy thin were caught carrying on like trailer trash and popping pills like Manson groupies. That so many of us took this tawdry tale as seriously as Trilling did suggests that there was too much nineteenth-century baggage left in our attics--an excess of oboes, opera, romantic poetry, psychoanalysis, and venereal disease.”