The Critics Respond, Part Fifty

Jeff, you have a point. Like a totally legitimate point. So while I originally planned to make this episode of “The Critics Respond” a stout-ish defense against your allegation, complete with various facts and figures concerning what percentage of my published output contains Accord-related content, I’d rather spend this time talking about the truly odd things that occur at the intersection of talent, opportunity, and motivation.

A while ago I read through an entire book of Peter Egan columns at the urging of our good friend Sam Smith. Shortly before that, I’d read Setright’s Drive On! for the third time. As always, I was struck by Egan’s ability to convey that particular brand of Midwestern friendliness, and I remained in awe of Setright’s unashamed, remarkably eclectic elitism.

This is what I didn’t expect to take away from both books: the remarkable narrowness of their attention. Frank Sinatra may have covered the waterfront, but Egan doesn’t look past a couple boards in one particular pier. Rarely does he deviate from formula, even when a deviation would be welcome. The cast of characters is always the same: Egan himself, his wife Barb, and some fellow with a curious amount of money and/or free time.

Setright is, of course, exponentially more literate and educated than Egan, yet his thoughts turn again and again to certain tropes and incidents. It’s remarkably common for him to mention the same thing across multiple books and/or magazine columns, often with identical phrasing. Does Egan rarely get through a column without a complaint regarding British carburetors? Setright appears to have trouble completing a thought without recourse to a very small group of incidents from classical antiquity.

I have no idea how often people complained about it, but I doubt it was frequent enough to worry either author. They had the advantage of time and space, publishing just one or two columns a month and completing books at their leisure. By contrast, I usually turn out between 4,500 and 8,000 words for publication every week plus another two or three thousand here.

It’s not just about the money, although Egan or Setright were paid a rate that exceeds what modern autowriters get by a factor of twenty or even fifty. It’s about exposure and interaction. If I wrote one thing a month, it would be equivalent to disappearing from the scene. Today’s readers expect to hear from you constantly and if you can’t keep up the pace they will go to someone who will. Let me share a little tidbit with you: the per-article gap in traffic between us and TTAC is remarkably small. The difference is that they run twelve articles a day and we do one or two. If I had enough writers to put up twelve articles a day on this site, we would eclipse everybody short of Jalopnik and Autoblog in a space of months or even weeks.

The most popular writers and YouTube clowns in this business spend ten or twelve hours a day engaging their readers everywhere from Facebook to Reddit. For every hour you spend writing, you have to spend four hours discussing that writing with the consumers. I can’t do it. Won’t do it. I won’t go as far as ol’ LJK, who once wrote “It cannot be too widely known that Setright does not correspond with readers” or something to that extent. I’ll respond to comments here on this site and occasionally elsewhere. But I’m not going to have long talks with 12-year-olds online about the fucking Countach.

Just to keep my head above water in this business, I need three or four good topics a week. These topics cannot be too topical or they read like clickbait. They can’t be right of center or even have a whiff of it. They must comply with our current insane standards regarding gender-fluidity and value-neutrality or they will be edited into oblivion if they are not rejected outright. They cannot even be too blatantly pro-car because my editorial masters are responsible to masters of their own and those masters despise the automobile even as enthusiasm for it fills their pockets. Any sincere appreciation of the motorcar I might have to offer has to be tempered with a little tongue-in-cheek attitude lest it trigger some half-human public-transit-fanatic above me on the corporate ladder whose arrival to NYC in xir twenties caused xhem to adopt their media-conceived preconceptions about to the city to a level that borders on cosplay and whose intolerance for any lifestyle besides xir own would cause Torquemada to take a deep breath and shake his head in despair.

Given these circumstances, it’s virtually impossible for me to not repeat the occasional trope or topic. Honda Accord coupes, boutique guitars, a bizarre attitude to club racing that combines lackadaisical pre-race prep with murderous intent after the green flag. Musings on fatherhood, disdain for lifted FWD wagons pretending to be trucks, a fanatic obsession with tailor-made clothing. Ridiculous jargon, shocking sexual audacity, and repulsive images of the ghetto.

From time to time, I get an opportunity to break out a bit and write something different. In the past year, I’ve shown you the new Corvette ZR1, run the Nurburgring with Ross Bentley, and performed an unsentimental comparison of $150,000 convertibles at speed in the Swiss Alps. I’d like to think that each one of those pieces, and others besides, were far more interesting because they were written by me instead of by an industry-standard hack. There’s just one little problem: The better of a job I do in creating something interesting for you, the reader, the fewer chances I will get to do it in the future.

I’ll explain. This business runs on public-relations money. That’s obviously true for small fry like TTAC but it’s also the case when you’re working in the big leagues. The only magazine in the game that operates entirely on its own budget is Consumer Reports. Everybody else has to be hand-in-glove with the automakers. When those automakers make vehicles and venues available for a story, they need to know that the story will justify the investment. They need you to stay on message.

By “stay on message”, I don’t mean that they need the coverage to be 100% favorable, although the biggest names in the business provide exactly that. I mean that they need the writing to be predictable and formulaic. “The shifter fell easily to hand”, and so on. They want the article to be written at the eighth-grade level. They have a few things that they really want you to mention: the difference between this 1.8T engine and the old one, a dashboard made from a single piece of plastic instead of a bolted-together mess, a 12-kilogram weight savings accomplished using a specific buzzword.

The mistake that I made when I started writing about cars — and it’s a mistake that I’m still making — is that I like to follow my intuition about a story and it frequently leads me very far away from those simple talking points. My first draft of the Lotus Nurburgring story, which I didn’t even bother to put in the mail to anybody, contained a 2,000-word digression about the “Granturismo” organization that had rented the track and their bizarre champagne-papi approach to trackdays that included hired models and limitless quantities of free alcohol served about fifteen yards from the pitlane entrance. When I went to Malaysia back in 2013, my final draft included 1700 words about an encounter with a petite local female that had to be excised from the text before it could even be put into the magazine’s editing system.

This kind of stuff works very well in a Tom Wolfe novel or a Herman Melville travelogue but it scares the suits on all sides. They want a certain sort of dependable writer. Someone who can scarf up a $25,000 vacation in a $500,000 car and turn in a story where the insanely vibrant background of their experience fades to a grey background so the talking points can shine. Someone who understands that you don’t write about downtown Barcelona just because you’ve been flown to Barcelona on a new-car test, any more than you would spend a paragraph reciting the serial numbers of the $100 bills that a PR rep handed you before you got on the plane home. (Which, by the way, does not happen in my experience. I am not aware of anybody in this business ever taking cash. And why would you, when you can take a $30k Emirates roundtrip that needn’t be reported to Customs on your way home?)

One of my esteemed colleagues recently had a once-in-a-lifetime experience of driving a $2 million car in a famous European road rally. I say “once-in-a-lifetime” because it would be once-in-a-lifetime for me. He goes every year. And here’s why he goes every year: he took that insane week-long adventure and boiled it down to a ten-item listicle that serves no purpose other than to bolster the business case for buying a new car from the people who covered his tab. If somebody sent me on that trip, they’d get a novella about gorgeous brunettes sweating through their white V-necks in the Tuscan sun and the despair of Pompey Magnus as he stamped his feet on the ground to raise an army against Caesar but received only an entourage to witness his death. As a reader, you might enjoy my piece more. But if you had to pay the bills and guarantee the coverage to your own corporate masters, you’d tear up my card in the Rolodex and reach for Old Faithful over there in the section marked “Will not fly on any airplane without a separate first class.”

In the past couple of years, I’ve done the legwork to come up with a half-dozen stories that would blow the minds of any even mildly engaged reader. Blue-light underground street racing in Moscow. AMG convertibles into the heart of darkness where homegrown Thai militias skin their enemies alive. Running head-to-head against NASCAR superstars in the bullring of Tulsa’s Chili Dome. Rolls-Royces in Juarez. The response is always the same from everywhere: yes, thank you, we’ll consider this. And then you open the magazine or webpage and it’s another story about the admirable heritage of the Porsche 911.

I don’t blame anybody involved. While the idea of risking my life for no particular reason beyond literary interest might be amusing to me, it’s terrifying to editors who might have to attend my funeral and fill ten newly-emptied pages on short notice. The prospect of sending me on a press trip and receiving a Victorian novel instead of a reliable 1,500-word recapitulation of the press release is nearly as frightening. So those opportunities will keep going to the Old Faithfuls.

There’s a choice to be made here. I can complain (more) about it in a futile attempt to get those opportunities, or I can turn my lens on the topics I have available to me. If James Joyce could create literature from a single day, I should be able to do it from a club race. If Tom Wolfe could make a conductor’s dinner party a subject of enduring merit, then I can take a Stateside second-tier drive of a middling sports car and make it utterly fascinating. Did Updike turn a few apres-ski fumblings with his neighbor’s wife into a National Book Award? I should be able to expand a short romance with a 29-year-old hairdresser into the stuff of legends.

In conclusion, therefore, I would like to apologize to Jeff, who is sick of hearing about my Accord. I can’t fix your problem. I can only offer you a choice: you can open up a magazine and read tales of astounding adventures where the interest and merit have been drained from the carcass in the best kosher-butcher style, or you can stick with me and read stories of triumph, heartbreak, sorrow, introspection, and fascination that will, sorry to say, occasionally include a six-cylinder, six-speed family sedan masquerading as a sporting coupe. Those are your choices, and neither is wrong.

74 Replies to “The Critics Respond, Part Fifty”

  1. Avatarroamer

    Two immediate thoughts:
    -You can’t post those pieces here? and
    -Clearly someone needs to start a magazine to be the modern equivalent of the old Mens’ adventure magazines. Not the watered-down versions we have now, but things like the old pulp magazines from the 1930’s. Maybe online only, but there’s got to be a market. I’d pay for a sub.

  2. AvatarJames

    But your 2-series review, in Road and Track, sold some vehicles. When I test drove one at my local BMW dealer, the salesman asked if I’d read it.

  3. Avatarrich

    Jack, I don’t know how you keep coming up with so many interesting articles. I’m happy to hear about your Accord, a great car you obviously love. Keep doing what you do !

  4. AvatarJohn C.

    I am majorly impressed with the ability to turn out 9000 words a week at the level which you do. I do less than half of that on my stamp collecting site, and that is still a lot of work.

    I have no great love for an Accord, why farm out a traditional American midsize to Japan, but am happy to read a cogent argument why my view may be too narrow. So feel free to keep at it. How a car could have gradually moved from a farmed out Scirrocco to a farmed out Cutlass is a strange trip.

    When your digressions don’t belong in the lamestream, please repackage them here. If you have to change Kelantan to Sarawak to fool the home front, so be it. You haven’t sold this out yet. When you do and the suits have made you rich, only then will their opinions matter here.

    • Avataryamahog

      “why farm out a traditional American midsize to Japan”

      Because they’re willing to do the work that Americans don’t want to do. Any American manufacturers selling midsize sedans with a stick and a fast motor?

  5. AvatarDavid Florida

    I must declare myself to be in Jeff’s camp, though only because of the urge to browse the classifieds engendered by any mention of Spike or the EX-L. One of these events will eventually result in my driving home an I4 MT coupe while dreams of picking up the kids at school with autocross numbers still applied to the doors dance in my head.

  6. AvatarCliffG

    I remember fondly an old Setright column in Car(?) raking Porsche for its refusal to admit hanging a motor out past its’ rear axle was an engineering mistake and tantamount to corporate malfeasance. It cannot be much fun in print media these days, any metropolitan daily is a shell of what it was a few decades ago. Without touching partisanship, a newspaper that employs fewer than 10% of the writing staff it had in the ’80s, and now relies on wire copy and reprints of pr statements to fill 90% of the paper is not going to be very enticing to spend money on. A number of years ago the local paper ran two stories, one written in 1948 and the other that day regarding coverage of a thunder storm. Somehow the non college educated reporter from 1948 wrote a dazzling description including multi-syllable words and complex sentences, while the current reporter, undoubtedly with a journalism degree from a major university, was essentially incoherent. Sigh. Good luck.

  7. AvatarRTR

    Jack, I suspect most of us enjoy hearing about your Accord(s). I enjoyed reading what must have been 2,000 words telling those who complained to screw themselves (but politely). Well done indeed!

    • Avatarhank chinaski

      Yup. A picture of you standing on the podium grabbing your junk for the camera would have been easier and probably would have carried more weight with Jeff there.

  8. AvatarRick

    Please feel free to slip in mentions of your Accord, or anything else you want, anytime you want. Also stick any “unpublishable” matter on this site (especially those relating to encounters with local anywhere petite females!). You (with a bullet indicative of rising towards the top), Ezra Dyer, Peter Egan, and that oft mentioned Sam Smith are my favorite automotive (?) writers of the day. The others are always interesting and often humorous. You, on the other hand, while always those, are also incredibly eclectic and widely variant in your subject matter, and to me are the current version of the similarly eclectic LJKS. Coincidentally, yesterday I happen to wander on to the British “Car” Magazine site, and read several of Setright’s old articles. I enjoy reading him now, and enjoyed reading him realtime back in the day in those truly classic “Car” issues (e.g. their back of the book Good, Bad, and the Ugly rundown on the cars of the day: Volvo XXX; For: Built like a tank Against: Drives like a tank Sum Up: It is a tank!). Sorry for the excursion…

    Setright was thoughtful, erudite, had an amazing vocabulary and turn of phrase, but he did sometimes get wrapped around his own axle (and others, such as when Mercedes introduced their 5 link rear axle he declared it non workable because he couldn’t “suss” out the geometry-though he was later man enough to admit his error when Mercedes held him by the hand and explained it all).

    You, on the other hand, are in many ways similar with respect to Setright’s positive qualities, but are never less than clear, on point, and I have yet to perceive an error in your thinking.

    So, Write On! ….and thanks for your efforts (and those of your companion writers). Riverside Green is a great addition to my reading universe.

  9. Avatarjers

    Jack, since you mentioned Tom Wolfe et al, is there a novel of your own in the future? You’d probably rival Neal Stephenson’s tendency toward self-indulgent digressions amidst an intelligent and eclectic story … but I thought Cryptonomicon was great and I wouldn’t hesitate to preorder your book!

  10. Avatartracktardicus

    A novel, or at minimum, a collection of Jack Baruth adventures. I’d pay money to read that…

  11. AvatarShrug

    Your refusal to constantly treat the reader as a child that needs their hand held throughout an essay in order to make everything easily digestible is, almost certainly, the one reason why I seek out your writing despite portions of it being antithetical to my own thoughts, values, and beliefs. Please keep it up, and if you could ever find a way to publish those longform essays with tangents that stretch from here to Gibraltar, you’d have at least one reader.

  12. AvatarThirdOwner

    Signs are all pointing in the same direction for you: start an online publication for Gentlemen. Cars, automotive history, watches, shoes, guitars and music, adventures in far and near places, hi-fi audio – you are more than half-way there already.

    How to make it pay? A group product purchase at a certain amount sponsors an issue. You’ve done this already as well, just not in a procedural way (an MB-Tex Couch wallet is my daily companion).

  13. Avatarelad sputnik

    I would read the f**k out of your grocery list, Jack, please publish and GIT INTO MAH KINDLE.

  14. Avatartyates

    JB – Appreciate the insights. My wife works in PR and does events for press and it’s just like you say. The “friendly” press gets the repeat invites and yes their writing is about as uninspired as you can get. Reading you here is fun because you are unedited, but as someone who has knows writers and has done some writing myself, having your own site can be a bit of a crutch because if you didn’t, you’d probably be out there pitching what you want to write to more publishers and editors, and my guess is somewhere there’s someone who wants to publish at least 1/3 of what you want to write, which would be a step in the right direction I bet. And hell yes, I want to read about the sportbike scene in Singapore or whatever you come up with.

  15. AvatarMike

    Jack, I try catch all of your articles. They allow me access to areas Inwould otherwise not experience. We all have egos to feed but next time use these words to tell a story. Why waste your talent defending your talent when it is best used to entertain and educate.

  16. AvatarCJinSD

    If only engineers had a clue how to devise suspension geometry, anti-sway bars would be an archaic memory. Somebody please tell me what he contributed to the hobby that compensated for his overwhelming overestimation of his judgment. LJKS was as stupid as he looked. R.I,P.

      • AvatarCJinSD

        I read the work of LJKS from the late seventies through the about 2003. One of the opinions he tried to repeat until it would become fact was that cars don’t need anti-roll bars. Considering he was writing about mass produced road cars, me thinks he was mistaking one engineer’s solution to a specific design’s requirements and holding it as a universal truth the same way some people latch onto only ideas they’re predisposed to while excluding a world of evidence to the contrary.

        • Jack BaruthJack Baruth Post author

          To be fair, the Noble M12 and M400 supercars followed that same no-bar philosophy and humbled a lot of more expensive and exotic machinery in doing so.

        • AvatarTom Daley

          He was also a automatic transmission fanboy.
          I largely agree with you, CJ, Setright was in love with his own opinions and contrived contrariness. He was also an arrogant shit in conversation. Completely oblivious to the huge gaps his (untrained) engineering knowledge

  17. Thomas KreutzerThomas Kreutzer

    Believe it or not, fear of repeating myself too often is the main reason my own efforts have dwindled over the past few months. I felt like my articles were focusing on Japan a little too much and, while I know that Japan-centric articles are a huge hit with a certain crowd, thought I was writing myself into a corner. I figure, however, to pick up the pen again once I transition back to the States in a couple of weeks. That said, once I start up again you can all expect to get really freakin’ tired of hearing about my old Nissan.

    I think, also, that there is a tendency to think of all writers as being cut from the same cloth when, in reality, that there are all sorts of different types. Among them are the newsman who writes to inform, the opinion writer who writes to sway positions and foster discussion, the entertainer who writes to engage and, the category I tend to place jack into, the writer as an artist. When I began writing at TTAC and during the time that Jack managed the site, TTAC was a place of artists and entertainers at least as much as it was a place for news and opinions. Once Jack was ousted, the arts and entertainment disappeared and all that was left was (recycled) news and, because the site’s new owners are in the business of selling ads to companies, rather tepid opinions.

    Riverside Green has become a home for all of the things that TTAC abandoned. That’s the reason that I, and I think others, come here. The idea ThirdOwner provides above, that this site become a place that caters to Gentlemen is a good one and, in a lot of ways, that’s exactly what it has become. The trick now will be to monetize it in a way that it’s not destroyed in the same way TTAC was.

  18. AvatarHarry

    My takeaway from the article was that I would like a few thousand words on the thought process behind getting a PhD in literature.

    Obviously it’s not professional advancement, and to my knowledge you haven’t mentioned any ambition in academia. You seem sufficiently well read and are self motivated enough to learn any critical techniques on your own.

    It was the chicks in glasses right?

  19. AvatarThomas

    I enjoy the Accord stories, but I would love to read more 993 stories. Although it seems like it’s been relegated to garage queen / heirloom status so perhaps there’s not much new to say.

  20. AvatarSumatraguy

    Jack, as a fairly longtime reader of TTAC (never a commenter) and a rather avid reader of Riverside Green, I agree with some of the responses that are wondering about growing Riverside Green into something for the articulate and curious gentleman. Think Esquire when David Granger was first running the magazine. There was a period there where that magazine had such an amazing literary quality that just lit each issue up. I think each of us come here for that same hit. I read a lot of the responses and I think anyone of us would be more than willing to jumping and help in anyway we can. Frankly, I only read TTAC when I see that you or your brother have contributed otherwise to be frank, its a snooze fest. Anyway, there’s my two cents and keep writing the only way you know how. Too many of us need the gift and challenge of carefully constructed digression.

  21. Avatararbuckle

    “that are wondering about growing Riverside Green into something for the articulate and curious gentleman. Think Esquire when David Granger was first running the magazine.”

    Call up Farago and make it happen.

    • AvatarJohn C.

      Not sure Jack would want to turn his outlet into something so insular and self aggrandizing. Perhaps this venue, should be more about showing readers how to get more enjoyment out of lifeboth from expanding minds and lifestyle stuff.

  22. Avatarstingray65

    The Accord has been one of the top selling cars in the USA for 25+ years, and is frequently cross-shopped by buyers of other popular cars, so that should make any Accord content interesting to a fairly wide audience. What most Accord (or any other car) content misses, however, is how the car handles and holds up at 40,000 miles or 60,000 miles, or whether it does bicycle, grocery, and kid hauling duties with grace and ease, or how it holds up on track days. So please keep us updated on your household Hondas, Chevys, and Porsches – I enjoy the reports and all opportunities to read your writing on any topic.

  23. AvatarGene

    Dammit Jack…I’ll never be able to read Peter Egan again without checking his standard reference points off a mental list.

  24. AvatarJ Edwards

    I’m only 37, but for as long as I can remember, automotive articles in magazines have largely been the same. They open with a fun off-topic blurb before going into a varied description of vehicular experiences mixed with a hastily compiled list of parts, and then end with something resembling philosophy. Most car videos are no different, they generally just include more exhaust noises and random Clarkson-esque proclamations and screaming. Very few tend to risk moving outside this formula.

    On the other hand, there’s your writing, which feels different. There are similarities for sure, for reasons you just explained, but it isn’t attempted prose and philosophy, it’s actual prose and philosophy. Your ZR-1 article was equal parts car and Thoreau musings, which likely tickled the brains of the less literate dramatically less than those of us with an affinity for the verbose, but it never lost focus and sounded pretty all the same.

    The bar keeps getting lower and lower, which is a shame. Don’t stoop to their level.

    Also, you haven’t written about guitars in a while.

  25. AvatarWulfgar

    I write, somewhat poorly, for an owner’s group, as the occasion arises. I’ve found that all the interesting details I include such as the people I run across, the wildlife, the eccentric details of the location are always removed by the editor. While I have always preferred my versions, the dependable details seem to win the day. With every publication it seems.

  26. Avatarscotten

    Don’t like it / don’t read it.

    That’s my attitude towards Demuro. I’m not gonna complain about him because I’m not following most of his tripe.

  27. AvatarCompaq Deskpro

    You did it again, this is the third time I’ve heard about the skinny Malaysian girl.

    You don’t allow editing or deleting on your website, and while this is good as it forces me to double check the quality before I put it out there, on TTAC or Youtube I’m more likely to push it out and fix it after, but the downside is I will leave a half written comment on my screen all day while I get distracted by work, and I will second guess until the tab is closed for the newest shiny thing, or just say “screw it” and delete the whole thing. This website is perfect, and I love and hate to think of it reaching the critical mass where advertisers have to scrutinize, and the unwashed, or more accurately unread masses defecate all over the comment section. But there is no way but up, so I’ll push out this shitty comment, click on the Best Buy ad and fully load the page of a $699 soundbar (lol), and hope you tell us about the skinny Malaysian girl before you can’t anymore without consequences.

  28. AvatarI COME IN PEACE

    I enjoy your writing a lot, though I don’t usually leave comments. I’m not clutching my pearls here – I really don’t care about your past romantic transgressions….sure, we’ve all had them in one form or another, I don’t get why you keep it up with the trope about you screwing up someone else’s marriage/relationship/whatever. You seem like a stand up guy, and you’re probably not proud of it, as it goes it does not really compute to me.

    I’ll keep reading….

    • Avatarrambo furum

      I was rather hoping that would fade away now that Jack is married again, but yet it persists. It is truly utterly incongruous. I have little interest in whether any of it is real or imagined, but it dawns on me that it is tolerated as it is merely a recurring joke.

    • Jack BaruthJack Baruth Post author

      You’re making a legitimate comment here, very far from pearl clutching.

      There is a lot to be said about maintaining the standards of public morality in one’s writing. It was one of the things that held our society together prior to the aggressive porn-ifying of societal discourse that has taken place in the past forty years.

      I like to say, with regards to things like adultery and enforced tolerance of various sexual perversions, that “The SCCA rulebook is written in blood.” Our forebears didn’t prohibit this stuff because they were prudes. They did it to keep our culture from imploding.

  29. Avatarbbakkerr

    There is almost a whiff of complaint here, about how the earlier writers had it easier, how you cannot conform and remain intellectually alive, etc. But while you could go there, you steer away and let it be. What I take away is an honest commentary on the current state of car writing, general writing, and the author hirself.

    Well done!

  30. AvatarEric L.

    You’ve written “complete with” recently in another post. Why do you refuse to use the superior “replete with?”

  31. AvatarJustPassinThru

    A shame. Really…an industry that was really always a few notches above prostitution…shilling for manufacturers…now has even had the money taken out; and is demanding formulaic, predictable prose. At the 8th-Grade level – which BTW, readers is true, I was told exactly that in my J-School classes.

    As a 19-year-old I was a dedicated reader of Car & Driver…even as I knew something was wrong, as they’d shill for the likes of a Chevette (calling it the best-handling econocar of the segment) or presenting the ten-years-dated Concord-nee-Hornet as actually worth purchase. These obvious lickspittle presentations were countered by David Davis’ irreverent presentations…something that Jack shares and perhaps was guided by. And of course, the back page, which belonged to Setright. I wasn’t sure what to make of that bloke, for a long time; but nobody could accuse him of shilling. ANYTHING.

    Later on, at loose ends in my twenties, I fantasized of joining the ranks; but lack of connections and lack of training (a stringer at the Jamestown Post-Journal didn’t cut it) kept it a fantasy. Now, as I read of how virtually ALL the money is cut out; and how the prose has to be strict to algorithm…I’m glad I didn’t get in, because I’d now be out of a gig.

    Be interesting to see how this all plays out in the next decade. Also be good to see if Jack can both edify us with his prose, and find a way to make it pay a few bills.

  32. Avatardave

    “Blue-light underground street racing in Moscow. AMG convertibles into the heart of darkness where homegrown Thai militias skin their enemies alive. Running head-to-head against NASCAR superstars in the bullring of Tulsa’s Chili Dome. Rolls-Royces in Juarez.”

    Why aren’t you putting this on a Youtube channel and monetizing the shit out of it?

  33. Avatarrpn453

    I’d rather read a daily article from you describing the commute in your Accord than a single typical automotive advertorial on some supercar.

    Hopefully we’ll get to see all that unedited stuff someday.

  34. Avatarr

    I have to ask if there is something preventing Jack from paying off this Accord early. In this very post he is considering paying to have a duplicate bicycyle frame made solely for Made in USA bragging rights but he still owes money on his car. This blows my mind, and we’ve all seen some of his other extravagant purchases.

    • Jack BaruthJack Baruth Post author

      Why would I pay off a loan early when the interest rate was 3.5% to begin with and — thanks to the way loans are calculated in the US — under 1% of the remaining balance is interest?

      At the risk of sounding like a real douchebag, I don’t take car loans because I can’t afford a car. I take car loans because the money is almost free.

  35. AvatarRye-cakes

    Your writing style, even when tempered by the higher-ups, is why you have a large loyal fan base. And we’ll gladly keep reading about your damn Accord. Even when some of us drive an “actual” American muscle car. ;)~

  36. AvatarKen

    Idea for a reoccurring series on this site: “Classic Jack” or “Classic Baruth” or “Classic Riverside Green”… you get the idea. A random (or chosen) article from the archives to show daily or weekly at the top of the site.

    You’ve written a ton of content, and while I attempt to read most of it, periodically there is something new I find linked from a current article. I may also just re-read some of the stuff from years ago as well!

    I’m glad you took up the weekly roundup suggestion, maybe this one will make it past as well.

    • AvatarKen

      Might even help new readers gain more access to your writings or “create” more content for the site.

    • Jack BaruthJack Baruth Post author

      But… but… who’s gonna buy the anthology book if I do that?

      You’re absolutely right. I should repop my old TTAC stuff, which is long past any authorship agreement, on this site.

  37. AvatarAdrian Clarke

    TBH Jack, for me the best motoring writers are the ones able to spin a good angle out of the most mundane topics, and make me want to read them whatever they are writing about. I would certainly put you in that category because your articles are interesting and educate me about stuff I know nothing about, in a way that’s down to earth and relatable.

    You should have a column in Car magazine (they just gave one to Sam Smith!) Twenty five years ago when that magazine was at it’s zenith you’d have fitted in there perfectly right next to Setright (Jewish scholar, concert standard clarinettist and qualified lawyer – will we ever see such a renaissance man again?) and the late Russell Bulgin who remains for me the finest motoring writer who ever lived (if you’re not aware of his work some of his best columns are on the Car website).

    • Jack BaruthJack Baruth Post author

      I actually had a long talk with Chris Chilton about Russell. He was a true workingman’s journalist and a real talent.

      • AvatarAdrian Clarke

        The book that was released after he passed was supposed to be a ‘best of’, but in reality barely scratched the surface of his brilliance.

        Sadly I lent my copy to a drag queen and never got it back. Not a reflection on drag queens, more a reflection on my naivety on lending books.

        I’m sure you two would have had an interesting chat about the 911 (he hated them!).

  38. AvatarBruno Jácomo Balestra Simões de Lima

    I would much rather read your kind of stories and texts about used, old or borrowed cars, rentals and track specials than the rephrasing of press releases we have now. I don’t know how to go about making that happen but I root for it everyday!

  39. AvatarDirtRoads

    I’m late to the game here but Jack, I read your stuff because I like your stuff. I go to review sites for stats, hoping they’re accurate (but never trusting them much) and for another POV, but frankly I trust what you say more, because you’re the only one I know of in the biz who talks about real shit.

    I have traditionally frowned upon Hondas and Honda drivers (they generally tend, in my experience, to be the most dissociated with actual, intelligent driving and cars in general), but your enthusiasm and rationale for your Honda (and the fact that you’re actually a driver) are fine by me. I read every damn word.

    I confess to wondering what Danger Girl thinks of your romantic reminiscing, but that’s between you and her. My wife would shit all over me for it, but that’s between me and her. You write for a living and you write about life, not just cars. And you write quite well.

    Let the haters hate, and let your readers continue to enjoy the entertaining fruits of your labors.

    • Jack BaruthJack Baruth Post author

      Well DG and I met after I’d been doing this work for years. I don’t think she expects me to change. Well, there are a few changes she does expect, like not banging random broads on press trips, and I’ve complied by shrewdly ensuring that all of my outlets hire penguins who suck up all the trips for thenselves.

  40. AvatarMichael B

    “For every hour you spend writing, you have to spend four hours discussing that writing with the consumers. I can’t do it. Won’t do it.”

    You once said most guest contributors run out of content after 3 or 4 pieces. I’m not sure it’s content, because for me it’s your line above. When I write it may take me 6-8 hours or more to “perfect” a piece – far too long – and when judged by readers still probably appears amateur by comparison. Then there’s checking/replying to comments. Same with social media… my wife tells me if I want to get noticed for anything I need to promote myself, but the constant checking/liking/replies is just a drain on my life that I don’t enjoy. Relative anonymity in my own industry is a consequence I’ve both struggled with but also tried to enjoy.

    I don’t know how you find the time, but more power to you Jack.


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