What Else Is Wrong With Bill Keller’s Cancer-Shaming

By now, just about everyone has weighed in on the Kellerdammerung, the his and hers columns striving to cancer-shame of Lisa Bonchek Adams — criticism for the sin of not doing cancer the “right way.”  Beyond what’s been written on our home turf, I’d point you to this and this and this and this and this and this roundup or more recent scorn– and especially this, from The New York Times‘ Public Editor, Margaret Sullivan. (For a contrary view, check out longtime friend-of-the-blog TBogg, who doesn’t think the Kellers’ sins, if any, should have earned the ire of the ‘net mob.)

Sullivan’s piece is so interesting because it is (ISTM, at least), as direct a condemnation of Bill Keller’s column as one could expect from within the organization he used to lead.  She writes:

In this case, I’ll go so far as to say that there are issues here of tone and sensitivity. For example, when Ms. Adams has made it so abundantly clear in her own work that she objects to the use of fighting metaphors in describing experiences with cancer, it was regrettable to use them throughout a column about her, starting with the first sentence. It suggests that Mr. Keller didn’t make a full effort to understand the point of view of the person he’s writing about on the very big and public stage that is The Times. And although I haven’t read all of Ms. Adams’s writing, readers are complaining about other examples of this disconnect. The Times should consider publishing some opposing points of view, possibly in the form of an Op-Ed column from a contributor.

In addition, Mr. Keller’s views here fall within what journalists would call “fair comment” only to the extent that they are based on facts.


I know that to an outsider (like me) it might have been nice if Sullivan had gone all chapter and verse on the many flaws in Keller’s piece, but I can tell you with real certainty that within the building, that last line kills.  A humiliation, very public, and immediately understood by Keller and every one of his former subordinates.*

At this point, a bit of housekeeping:  I’m not going to engage Emma Keller’s column at all; it’s been taken down, and the essential point — if you feel uncomfortable at someone else’s presence and material on social media, don’t f**king read it. Unfollow.  Take the blog off your RSS feed.  There.  Was that so hard?  (See also the Guardian’s official explanation for why the piece vanished from the site.)

I’m not even going to try to parse the rich vein of fail Bill Keller manages to mine.  The undertone (not very under-, actually) of “won’t this irksome woman please shut up” is ugly enough.


The conflation of an “incurable” diagnosis with an asserted fate of imminent death is intellectual sleight of hand of the least honorable stripe.  The factual errors in Keller’s account, noted by Sullivan above, are troubling as hell.  The implication, that there is one “right” way to engage cancer, and that Adams was failing in her obligation to meet death with due deference, is both wretched as a direct comment on a single life, not just wrong, but cruel — and, of course, makes it much harder to get to what Keller claims is his point, that the modern American medicine does end-of-life poorly.  There’s a lot to talk about there, to be sure — but Keller doesn’t actually get to that, so busily does he scold Adams for failing to conform to his expectations.  (You may take from this that I don’t agree with TBogg and Soonergrunt that Keller was more awkward than awful.)

But all of that and more has been amply discussed already.  What I want to add at this point is a gloss on something Times’ Public Editor Sullivan wrote:

As a columnist, Mr. Keller – by definition – has a great deal of free rein. As I’ve written before, Times opinion editors very rarely intrude on that process by steering a writer away from a topic or killing a column before it runs. It’s a columnist’s job, in short, to have an opinion and to speak it freely. That’s as it should be.

A line often attributed to Daniel Patrick Moynihan, the former New York senator, makes this point well: “You’re entitled to your own opinion; you’re not entitled to your own facts.”

And therein lies the nub:  (many) opinion columns and columnists are accurate but wrong. Factual mistakes are bad (and they are legion), but the deeper problem is the distortion field of isolating facts from the patterns that give them meaning.

That is:  Keller’s largest failings in his column weren’t his point-by-point errors, the kinds of things that can be addressed by simple corrections.  They were rather lapses of reporting and analysis.  He asserted rather than established that Lisa Adams was (a) dying and (b) “fighting” her disease — and but what was worse, used those two obvious misreadings of Adams own work to make unsupported claims about the American approach to end-of-life.  He gets to do that move, according to Sullivan, because it’s his job to have an opinion.

And so it is — but still, what should Keller know and be able to state about, say, where the US goes astray in end-of-life care?  What does he need to do beyond get excited by (to be charitable here) a misreading of his source?

Well, paraphrasing Henri Poincare here, it falls to the thinker to decide which facts are worthy of inclusion into the argument — which is to say that facts gain meaning and their connection to truth or falsity, by the structure of argument we build around them.


Keller was a crap journalist who arrived at an unsupported conclusion not because he got how long Lisa Adams had endured stage 4 cancer wrong, but because the nuggets of fact he deployed — both the ones he got right and the other ones — were already lodged in a flawed argument, that the specific experience of his father in law adequately frames any circumstance in which one faces an incurable illness.

There’s lots more one could ask, and then pick apart. But the point isn’t that Keller did a hack job, though he did. It’s that these kinds of issues are the stuff of elite opinion “journalism.” It’s how you get a David Brooks column on inequality that conflates arguments about the 1 % and the 5 %.  It’s how you get the Washington Post op-ed page more or less in its full glory (sic!).  The problem lies with the assumption that facts are discrete — quanta of reality.  The ones that go wrong can be corrected, and as for the rest, they can be organized anyway an opinion holder chooses to no ill effect.And that’s where editors need to intervene.  Not to tell Keller he can’t write about end of life, or Bobo about income inequality, or Douthat about lady bits, or Will about climate change or Rubin about anything.  But they have to do so in a way that stands the test not merely of simple accuracy, but of robustness.  How easy is it to knock the piece to shreds?  Too easy?  Get me rewrite!

Ultimately, while it’s great that Sullivan publicly eviscerated someone who, not that long ago, ran the Grey Lady (no longer) of 43rd St….she still gives too much license she gives not just Keller but the whole stable on the back pages of her paper. I get to joke that David Brooks is always wrong — but I’m not nearly as far off as I should be.

So, yeah, I’m pretty appalled that the Kellers both thought that shouting at a cancer patient was a clever way to frame something deeper they thought they were saying — but I’m at least as depressed that the system of journalism in which they are both embedded both enables and rewards such crap.

*I also love that Sullivan managed to get an elegantly sly slam on both BoBo and Dowd into her stiletto work on Keller:

I don’t make a practice of commenting on whether I agree with columnists, or if I like their columns in general or on a particular day, whether it’s David Brooks on pot-smoking or Maureen Dowd on Chris Christie.

Softly, softly…

Images:  Tommaso Dolabella, Martyrdom of Thomas Becket, 1627

Leonardo da Vinci, Anatomy of the Neck, c. 1515

78 replies
  1. 1
    Cermet says:

    We had a war of choice for no fucking reason that killed thousands of americans and hundreds of thousands of innocvent Iraqi’s and this, fucking THIS takes up the whole internet time around these parts? What of AGW? Again, that is being nearly ignored here; or the terrible effects of tar sands … the list is long and the 0.01% are the real enemy destorying the middle class, environment and even health care but we talk here about a NYT post not being sensitive enough.

  2. 2
    Baud says:


    Yeah, this is too inside baseball even for me. I’m not even sure what the dispute is about.

  3. 3
    Mnemosyne says:

    I’ll reiterate what I think was wrong about Keller’s column and why TBogg and SG were also wrong — Keller was holding a person up to international media scrutiny and inviting his readers to pile onto Adams for her (perceived) flaws.

    The fact that the pile-on then boomeranged back onto Keller rather than hitting his intended target does not absolve Keller from what he tried to do, which was to create exactly the kind of internet pile-on that TBogg and SG deplored.

  4. 4
    Tom Levenson says:

    .@Cermet: @Baud: A: lots of us, me included, have had to confront the issues Lisa Adams talks about within families (me) or for one’s own self. So excuse me for thinking about this.

    B: I’m trying to say Keller didn’t just fuck up this story; rather that the way he fucked up shows us something about how we get folks urging us into wars of choice and the rest. You may not care about attempts to describe just what’s wrong w. American journalism, and I could certainly have written a shorter and better piece (which would have taken much more time, alas). But if you don’t think this is something you want to pay attention to, fine. I’ll refund every last cent it cost you to read the piece.

  5. 5
    scav says:

    It’s relevant though, especially as a the same set of journalisticish practice helped us into the wars. Besides, A) can’t we multitask at this blog? the world certainly does. B) Football dedicated threads are totally inside baseball to some, shut them all down!. Or, are we just cranky for the knee-jerk pleasure of it?

  6. 6
    Mnemosyne says:


    Do you like PPACA and the fact that millions of Americans who previously lacked health insurance now have access to health care? Bill Keller doesn’t, and he’s going to hold Lisa Adams up as an example of someone that healthcare is being “wasted” on because her eventual diagnosis is terminal, so why spend thousands (if not millions) of dollars on helping her continue to live a productive life?

    So, yes, this isn’t just an airy-fairy intrablog discussion. This is a direct attack on PPACA and the notion that some people “deserve” health care and others should just accept their diagnosis and die.

    ETA: Do I even have to point out that, in Keller’s world, the people who deserve their massive healthcare spending just happen to be rich, unlike the Lisa Adamses of the world?

  7. 7
    MattF says:

    So, the game has certain rules, and, as it happens, the Kellers didn’t actually obey the rules. Why does this matter? It turns out, the game is actually about life and death. Do you find that surprising? Does that feeling of surprise feel familiar? If your answer to either of these questions is ‘Yes’, then that’s why it matters.

  8. 8
    Baud says:

    @Tom Levenson:

    No worries. I skip over stuff I’m not interested in. This is the fourth or fifth post on this topic, so I’m a little curious about what it’s all about. But I didn’t mean to suggest you shouldn’t talk about whatever is important to you.

  9. 9
    Yatsuno says:

    And that’s where editors need to intervene

    Lessee…lowly copy editor vs six figure columnist who could get said copy editor fired with a phone call. I wonder who’s going to win that battle? If any editor even so much as glanced at either of those columns it doesn’t show it. Besides, Bill Keller needs no editing! His words are always perfect and ineffable. How DARE a lowly plebe sully his masterful prose!

  10. 10
    Tom Levenson says:

    @Yatsuno: Not talking copy editors. Section editors, who, at the Times are six figure folks themselves with significant power. But there’s a culture in which that power is exercised that, as Sullivan writes, acts as a bar to wrestling with pundits. I’m saying that this particular culture needs to change: an “opinion” has to be actively defensible, and if it’s not, then the section editor needs to force her or his writers to make the argument tight.

    Won’t happen soon; may not happen ever. But the point of all the Brooks Is Always Wrong stuff is to exact some repetitional penalty, however small, for the failure to demand rigor as well as accuracy. Do it enough; spread the meme, and maybe (I live in hope, not expectation) we get a better press.

  11. 11

    Two lesbians are looking for a house on Property Virgins right now. I can imagine RWNJs heads exploding all over the United States. I tell you HGTV has been more responsible for the perceived downfall of the US (in the nutjobs heads) than any other channel. They seem to go out of their way to get mixed race couples and gay couples on their shows than any other channel than I can think of.

    BTW I found the corpse of a mouse on the living room floor this morning, I am assuming that whoever brought it bleeding into the house decided to dig it out and play with it for a while, luckily they tired of it and didn’t re-hide it.

  12. 12
    Bill E Pilgrim says:

    I think the Kellers columns deserved the heat they got. For Bill at least, it’s entirely in character if you ask me. Saying that this particular creepiness by him isn’t worth writing columns to criticize because it’s not as bad as his other NYT Editor sins is a little strange.

    Let’s put it this way: I find it a little hard to swallow that two prominent journalists tag-team shaming and criticizing a woman with cancer isn’t something worth writing columns about, but that writing a column criticizing those who do is somehow worth the read.

    By that I mean if you want to defend Keller, go for it, but the complaint that it’s all just too trivial, delivered in column-length form, seems disingenuous.

  13. 13
    CDW says:

    Keller brings up an important issue in health care in the United States. I don’t take issue with him for talking about a specific person because Lisa Adams, that specific person, has made herself a public person with her blog. I don’t read Keller’s piece so much as a criticism of Lisa as a criticism of the health care system in the US where you can keep people who are “brain dead” alive indefinitely and where you frequently have to fight to be given palliative care rather than suffering the tortures of treatments that make you unable to function normally or the indignity of being diapered and fed through a tube. The choice should be the individual’s and the choice should be honored and respected. I’ve had personal experience with this kind of thing although not cancer and it can tear you apart watching someone die without the benefits of palliative care. Fortunately, hospices where palliative care is available are becoming common no thanks to the medical community.

  14. 14
    Yatsuno says:

    @Tom Levenson:

    I live in hope, not expectation

    As do we all. Besides I think the Grey Lady fired all her copy editors already. To their great shame.

    Does the Times even have a section editor for the opinions? Considering some of the trash that has been thrown up lately I wonder if that is still vacant or even existing.

    @Litlebritdiftrnt: A gay couple won the Big Deal on Let’s Make a Deal yesterday. No one batted an eyelash, even when his partner came down with him at the end. No PDAs though.

  15. 15
    JPL says:

    Bill Keller could have written an opinion piece about his FIL and end of life care but instead he addressed the way someone else chose to treat their illness in a very public forum. His wife’s column was removed because she had not obtained permission to write the very personal article without permission and Bill Keller’s should have been removed as well. That Lisa Adams chooses to live, and write, should not be something that should be questioned.
    Fuck Bill Keller.

  16. 16

    Bill Keller deserves all the heat he is getting for his column.

  17. 17
    JoyfulA says:

    @Yatsuno: I assume NYT still has some copyeditors. However, at my local newspaper, people bitch in the online edition about spelling errors and confused writing, and the writers tell them there are no more copyeditors or proofreaders.

    Then again, what could a copyeditor do with a Tom Friedman column anyway?

  18. 18
    JPL says:

    Whatever happened to empathy? In the not so distant past, I remember people caring…

  19. 19
    Joseph Nobles says:

    “Look, lady, the way you approach your impending death makes my wife’s dad look like a pushover. So knock it off.”

    Crazy world we live in…

  20. 20
    MattF says:

    @JoyfulA: The thought that came to mind was ‘burn it’. But it’s all bits ‘n pixels these days, so you can’t even do that.

  21. 21
    Yatsuno says:

    @MattF: I doth quote the Cybermen:



  22. 22

    @Yatsuno: You once gave me a recipe for oats risotto, I want to make the risotto and can’t find the recipe. Can you give me that recipe again?

  23. 23
    different-church-lady says:

    Broad generalization combined with shallow and inaccurate understanding of specifics? I thought that’s what the NYTs employed David Brooks for.

  24. 24
  25. 25
    Pogonip says:

    @Litlebritdiftrnt: I was in the dr’s office several years ago and saw a lesbian couple on one of those house-hunting shows. So I guess it’s nothing new. On the rare occasions I am exposed to these shows, my question is not “What are these people’s sex lives like?” but “How can they afford this?”

  26. 26
    different-church-lady says:

    @Yatsuno: At this rate we’re only about 2 years away from a blizzard of “Can the entertainment industry please stop using the acceptance of gays as a kind of token novelty, thank you, signed, the gay community” essays.

  27. 27

    BTW if you need respite from the blatherings of awful Kellers, I present the Caturday Kitteh and her noble minion

  28. 28

    @Pogonip: I have seen gay couples on House Hunters even during the Dubya admin.

  29. 29
    Anoniminous says:

    Is anything going to happen to Keller? No. Is anybody going to care what Keller wrote 3 months from now? No.

    But meanwhile the NYT is getting a lot of free advertising which is all to the good for their bottom line. (And I understand it needs some help.)

  30. 30
    Mnemosyne says:


    Food Network, for all their other problems, have been really good about it as well. On “Restaurant Impossible” (their rip-off of “Kitchen Nightmares”), one set of restaurant owners was a gay couple and there was exactly as much emphasis on repairing their personal relationship as there was for any of the hetero couples in similar situations shown on previous shows. Pace Yutsano, I think there was even a little PDA. ;-)

  31. 31
    debbie says:

    @Bill E Pilgrim:

    I think Keller’s column plays right into what some people hate about online/social media/whatever — the power that comes from virtual anonymity. When you pass judgement on somebody, you should have to do it to their face.

  32. 32
    Pogonip says:

    Also too, I have a couple of announcements.

    1). Thomas Tryon’s books are back in “print” on Kindle.

    2). It is fvcking snowing again. I am fvcking tired of cleaning fvcking snow off my car and in this fvcking area we have at least another two fvcking months of this before we can expect any fvcking improvement. I am going to go read about the fvcking Eleusininan Mysteries and ignore the latest fvcking round of fvcking snow for a while.

    That is fvcking all.

  33. 33
    Babette says:

    Does Mr. Keller even read his own paper? For several years now, the Times has been running a series of essays by a Suleika Jaouad, a 20-something leukemia patient, about her experiences since her diagnosis several years ago.

  34. 34
    gnomedad says:

    Well said.

  35. 35
    🎂 Martin says:

    @schrodinger’s cat: Yeah, it’s been quite a while. Though House Hunters is a Canadian production, so socialism.

    And I think Chris Christie is cooked. Floodgates are going to open now.

  36. 36
    Pogonip says:

    @Pogonip: Hey, I think I just wrote a rap song!

    Fvcking snow.

  37. 37
    Dolly Llama says:

    @Litlebritdiftrnt: MTV back in the ’80s and ’90s (back in the day when actual music videos were their bread-and-butter) pushed those same boundaries, especially with regard to mixed-raced canoodling. It may be responsible for why, for the vast majority of Generation Xers and those younger, seeing a mixed-race [ETA – or same-sex] couple together just isn’t a thing anymore.

  38. 38

    @Pogonip: Its pretty though when you see it coming down from inside your warm house.

  39. 39
    Poopyman says:

    A very cogent point of view elegantly put, sir. My only complaint (?) is that the singular da Vinci stopped me cold in my reading until I had sussed it as well as I could. Feature, surely, rather than a bug.

  40. 40
    PurpleGirl says:

    @Pogonip: May I ask, what are you reading about the Eleusininan Mysteries? Back in the 1990s I watched a show on TV about them. It was interesting and seemed well done. Don’t remember which channel it was on but, of course, it probably won’t ever be shown again… like The Silk Road series.

  41. 41
    Pogonip says:

    @PurpleGirl: I’m rereading Harvest Home. I read it at 11 when it originally came out (my reading level was way ahead of my age) and now I’m going to read it as the adult for whom it was intended. I remember having to go the library to look up the Eleusinian Mysteries and being very impressed at how Tryon had based his book on things that really happened, and trying to get my friends to read it, with no luck; it does require minimal literacy. (All my friends were victims of Dick and Jane; I escaped because I had learned to read on my own before I went to school.)

    And it’s STILL fvcking snowing. Harrumph.

  42. 42
    JPL says:

    @🎂 Martin: You might be right about Christie. Both of the people mentioned declined to comment but did have someone else shame the Hoboken mayor.

  43. 43
    Pogonip says:

    @schrodinger’s cat: Pfft. We were hit by the polar vortex; I will be afraid to open the heat bill when it comes. A pox on old man Winter, I say!

  44. 44
    Chris T. says:

    I have a terminal diagnosis myself: I have “life”.

    So far, being alive has proven 100% fatal to all mammals.

  45. 45
    rikyrah says:

    I don’t know what it is, but I cannot help but crack up watching those Malcolm McDowell and James Earl Jones Sprint commercials. Seeing two ‘ thespians’ – in tuxedos no less – reciting ‘texts’ from teenagers – tickles me everytime.

  46. 46
    mai naem(mobile) says:

    @Pogonip: when I see the not olders/not retirees on house hunters international I always wonder how they’re dealing with the immigration issues. Some of them appear to have fairly non-skilled jobs. And the Canadians buying second homes in central america. Is air fare that cheap from canada? I figure at least $1k/trip/couple x 4 /yr. This is what I’m thinking when I watch HHI.

  47. 47
    PurpleGirl says:

    @rikyrah: The first time I saw one I didn’t get it and wondered WTF is that about. Then I realized what they were saying and now I think they’re amusing.

  48. 48
    SiubhanDuinne says:


    A gay couple won the Big Deal on Let’s Make a Deal yesterday. No one batted an eyelash

    As it should be. The good guys have won, although I expect we’re in for a few more legislative and legal skirmishes. But if the LMaD audience is all “meh, whatevs,” I think the DOMA states are going to fall like ninepins.

  49. 49
  50. 50
    Pogonip says:

    @schrodinger’s cat: Those are some darn cuddly Viking overlords. I want to skritch their ears and listen to them purring.

    According to Stephen Budiansky, Viking invasion routes can be tracked by noting where there are larger than normal numbers of orange cats and white cats. He thinks this means the Vikings liked orange cats and white cats and so had a lot of them. I am not so sure of this since it would indicate the Vikings were either culling or breeding for color, both of which seem unlikely. It’s possible they preferred orange or white cats as ships’ cats for some reason, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they had more of those colors overall.

    Me, I like having a black cat around when possible; so nice at Halloween, especially if it has yellow eyes. Most of the black cats around here seem to have green eyes. I blame the Vikings.

  51. 51
    different-church-lady says:

    @🎂 Martin:

    Though House Hunters is a Canadian production

    What gives you that idea? Pie Town Productions is in Los Angeles.

  52. 52
    WereBear says:

    @Pogonip: 1). Thomas Tryon’s books are back in “print” on Kindle.

    Yer a peach! Such favorites. Thanks!

  53. 53
    WereBear says:

    @Pogonip: preferred orange or white cats as ships’ cats for some reason

    Both of these kinds of cats are known for mellow dispositions. About 80% of the cats used in movies are “orangies” such as the famous Rhubarb in the old Hammer films.

  54. 54
    kc says:


    Bread and circuses.

  55. 55
  56. 56
    AnotherBruce says:

    @Cermet:Keller is part of the .01% and this is a prime example of how the Over-class is trying to rule our culture and even our lives. Even with something as personal and horrific as cancer the wealthy get to decide the decorum of the experience. Myself, I didn’t ask and do not want to be ruled by a bunch of inbred shitheels whose only real talents are hoarding wealth. But they have decided that because they are wealthy, they’ve earned some kind of right to tell the rest of us how to think and what to do.

  57. 57
    AnotherBruce says:

    @Cermet:Keller is part of the .01% and this is a prime example of how the Over-class is trying to rule our culture and even our lives. Even with something as personal and horrific as cancer the wealthy get to decide the decorum of the experience. Myself, I didn’t ask and do not want to be ruled by a bunch of inbred shitheels whose only real talents are hoarding wealth. But they have decided that because they are wealthy, they’ve earned some kind of right to tell the rest of us how to think and what to do.

  58. 58
  59. 59
    different-church-lady says:


    Keller is part of the .01%

    I doubt Keller is that loaded, but even so it wouldn’t prevent him from being more sympathetic to their interests than he ought to be.

    In the end I don’t think it’s so much about wealth as it is just pure first-world ivory tower arrogance, with a dash of anachronistic faux-Emily Post thrown in.

  60. 60
    Yatsuno says:

    @schrodinger’s cat: Hmm…I’m unable to locate that myself. Lots of good options online but nothing that strikes as one I’d share. I’m going to eat now but I’ll keep nosing around.

  61. 61
    Pogonip says:

    @WereBear: Enjoy! They’re re-issuing some of Hal Borland’s books, too, although not (yet) the one I haven’t read, 12 Moons of the Year.

    Really old books I hope get Kindled:

    P.J. My Friend by Noel B Gerson–a man and his beloved cat

    You’re Stepping on My Cloak and Dagger, forget author’s name–well-written memoir of spying in WW II.

    My Zoo Family by Helen Martini–zookeeper’s wife lives happily as mom to orphaned cubs

    The Medical Detectives Vol II by Berton Roueche–Vol I is already on Kindle

    You never know who reads these big sites, I hope an Amazon exec sees this! (And, hey–be a little nicer to the serfs, OK? There but for the grace of God go you.)

  62. 62

    @Yatsuno: It was made in the oven, not on the stove top.

  63. 63
    Gretchen says:

    @Mnemosyne: thank you, Mnemosyne. Very, very well said.

  64. 64
    Pogonip says:

    Also, there was a nifty Paul Gallico novel about a war among magicians. Can’t recall the title, but one of the characters was Ninian the Nonpareil, if that helps.

  65. 65
    WereBear says:

    @Pogonip: The Medical Detectives Vol II by Berton Roueche–Vol I is already on Kindle

    A fave from my childhood library! The orange guy! The blue men! That heartbreaker about aspirin.

  66. 66
    notoriousJRT says:

    Don’t forget to remind us of all this on the next NFL open thread.

    So sad that we individuals do not get to choose what interests others – including Bill and Emma Keller. I often look around at all that is made of sports and gambling in this country. People can’t name their local, state, or federal reps, but they know what the line on Sunday’s game is. Do I find that bewildering at times? Yes, but, so what?

    As a person who has endured cancer treatment an all that goes with it, I found Bill Keller’s column damaging. You? Not so much. Again, so what?

  67. 67
    Pogonip says:

    @WereBear: One of the original Roueche collections contained a fascinating essay about the (then) new Poison Control Center that cries out for reprinting.

  68. 68
    shadows mom says:

    I have only this to add:


    Like Ms. Adams, my friend Jay Lake (well-known in SFF circles), has blogged continuously, honestly, and with great clarity as his initial colon cancer was diagnosed, treated, gone into remission, recurred in his lungs, gone into remission, recurred again.

    It is my belief that we should respect and honor those who undertake to share their experience with what may be one of the hardest of all challenges with which an young or middle-aged individual may live. The certain knowledge that one’s death is not in some yet to be imagined future, but instead is a very real and tangible part of one’s daily life.

  69. 69
    Roxy says:


    He wrote some spooky books. I also remember him guest starring in an episode of the “Big Valley.” The episode was called the Midas Man

  70. 70
    Roxy says:

    What I don’t understand is the lack of compassion and understanding that the Kellers showed to Lisa Adams. Especially from Emma who is a breast cancer survivor and I’m sure had top notch medical care for her cancer.

  71. 71
    Ruckus says:

    That’s one of the things that got me as well. FIL cancer, lady herself, cancer. And they treat this woman like she killed their dog. Lisa Adams has her reasons for being this open and there is no reason not to respect her choice. None. But I see good reason to applaud her for that choice. It helps her is the best reason but it may also help someone else deal with having cancer. It may give someone the strength to understand what is happening to them and that while they are the one affected they are not alone in one of the loneliest things.

  72. 72
    Tehanu says:


    You’re Stepping on My Cloak and Dagger, forget author’s name–well-written memoir of spying in WW II.

    That’s a wonderful book by Roger Hall, who (alas) died a few years ago. I was actually thrown out of the public library when I was a teen because I was laughing so loud reading it. He also once had a radio show (I think) called “You Can’t Fight Roger Hall.”

    one of the characters was Ninian the Nonpareil

    But the best magician name ever is in Peter Beagle’s The Last Unicorn: Shmendrick the Magician.

  73. 73
    sm*t cl*de says:

    Viking invasion routes can be tracked by noting where there are larger than normal numbers of orange cats and white cats. He thinks this means the Vikings liked orange cats and white cats and so had a lot of them. I am not so sure of this since it would indicate the Vikings were either culling or breeding for color, both of which seem unlikely. It’s possible they preferred orange or white cats as ships’ cats for some reason, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they had more of those colors overall.

    If memory serves, there was an article on this by Todd in the November 1977 Scientific American. He reckoned that Vikings went to Byzantium to serve in the Varangian Guard, saw the Lake Van breed of white cats (and orange ones), said “Nice Kitty — can I take one home?”, and no-one bothered arguing with them.

    The Laxdaela Saga singles out Bolli Bollason for bringing a white cat to Iceland after serving in the Guard, and how great everyone thought it was.

    UPDATE: Money quote from Todd:

    The only other place where this combination of orange and dominant-white frequencies is known to occur is the re­mote district of Van in eastern Turkey […] The evidence suggests that the Vikings selectively transported this profile of sex-linked orange and dominant white from their contacts on the Black Sea and planted it in the North Atlantic.

  74. 74
    sm*t cl*de says:

    The Medical Detectives Vol II by Berton Roueche

    That is where I learned not to graft tomato plants onto Datura rootstock.

  75. 75
    Another Holocene Human says:

    @mai naem(mobile): canadian gummint subsidizes intl travel, goddammd socialists

  76. 76
    Steeplejack says:


    “Ninian the Nonpareil.” The Man Who Was Magic.

  77. 77
    TriassicSands says:

    I’ve never liked Bill Keller (I don’t know anything about his wife), but my initial response to the two columns and my continuing view of them is that people have hugely over-reacted.

    I had never heard of Ms. Adams before, and she’s not on my list of immediate concerns, but after reading the two columns and looking over some of her written contributions, I still think the response to Keller’s column was more a response to him than to what he wrote.

  78. 78
    Jebediah, RBG says:


    Fvcking snow.

    Not recommended. The shrinkage is epic.

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