'NY Times' Frank Rich Taking Book Leave
Posted: 1/22/2006  |  By: Joe Strupp
Frank Rich, former theater critic and current Sunday columnist for The New York Times, is taking a leave of absence until at least April to write a book about life in the U.S. since the Sept. 11 attacks.

Rich told that he had been planning to do the book for about a year, but did not have the time until now. "It has no title, it is going to be essentially my take on what has gone on since 9/11," Rich, 56, said. "It is trying to look at how we got from 9/11 to where we are now."

He declined to offer more specifics, saying "I still have to write it."

The author of three previous books, Rich said this one will likely come out in the fall and is being published by Penguin Press. "I don't know what the length will be, but it will not be an encyclopedia," he joked. He did not know how the Times would fill his weekly space, but said he would return to the column in the spring.

In his "farewell" column on Sunday, he tackled the growing trend to "truthiness," as opposed to truth, in the U.S. :

"This isn't just a slippery slope. It's a toboggan into chaos, or at least war. As everyone knows now - except for the 22 percent, according to a recent Harris poll, who still believe that Saddam helped plan 9/11 - it's the truthiness of all those imminent mushroom clouds that sold the invasion of Iraq. What's remarkable is how much fictionalization plays a role in almost every national debate. Even after a big humbug is exposed as blatantly as Professor Marvel in 'The Wizard of Oz' - FEMA's heck of a job in New Orleans, for instance - we remain ready and eager to be duped by the next tall tale. It's as if the country is living in a permanent state of suspension of disbelief.

"Democrats who go berserk at their every political defeat still don't understand this. They fault the public for not listening to their facts and arguments, as though facts and arguments would make a difference, even if the Democrats were coherent. It's the power of the story that always counts first, and the selling of it that comes second. Accuracy is optional. The [James] Frey-like genius of the right is its ability to dissemble with a straight face while simultaneously mustering the slick media machinery and expertise to push the goods. It not only has the White House propaganda operation at its disposal, but also an intricate network of P.R. outfits and fake-news outlets that are far more effective than their often hapless liberal counterparts. "