Might be interesting to some of yous-
Interesting read. Not sure I agree with either polarized stance. Reviews should be balanced and fair, not overly negative (what's the point?) nor overly gushing. They must take the work, and only the work, into consideration. It's interesting how both authors degenerated into ad hominem attacks to some degree after they felt threatened by the other essayist's ideas and claims. Part of writing any criticism is to try to unfold a work for a reading public in the most objective manner possible while stating clearly what it is in the work that makes it either "good" or "bad" on a subjective level for the critic. It's a difficult balance, to be sure, but one any decent reviewer must negotiate if he or she hopes to be successful in this field. Wish I had more time to ponder this argument.
Thanks for posting, Carol. A poet at the Women's Poetry Listserv referred to and gave a link to this controversy. It seems involving, a debate on the Internet that has gathered a wider audience. Joani is right -- it seems heated. Ad hominem. Detailed, related to the history of its moments. Bill Yarrow quoted Updike at FB yesterday on how and when and why to review. As someone who has been writing reviews, I need all the advice I can get and to read arguments about it. My strategy has been to write a freer and briefer form of literary scholarship than was generally encouraged in graduate and undergraduate literature classes, to write about books as someone who studied literature and who writes, rather than as a bonified critic or sales person in publishing. Joani is also right: the debate ... between Michael Lista and Jan Zwicky ... requires time to study and may be just a fight. If I have time today, I may try to investigate it.
Interesting. Alters my view of Canadians forever more.
Something related: Patrick Somerville on Janet Maslin's bad review of This Bright River, his most recent novel. Maslin misread the novel, mistaking one character for another. Somerville and the NYT work it out in an exchange between Ed Marks of the NYT and one of the characters in the novel (Somerville's agent suggested he create email addresses for his characters). It's a gentle, humorous and humane way to address Maslin's error and her bad review.
Fascinating article, Jane. Patrick Somerville is way too gracious, but probably believes it's in his best interests not to eviscerate a critic. He's probably right.
He certainly chose a fine way to respond. The only alternative would be an apparent random act of violence, but only if untraceable. For some critics, the suspect list would be very long, if not utterly discouraging even for the very best detective.
Yeah, I agree. I doubt Somerville would gain anything with a tirade (or violence :) or even a kind of reasoned wtf. The humor and the back and forth with Marks serves him well. I feel like going out and buying his book just 'cuz!
I'm late to this party but I agree with Truman Capote, "And in this connection there is one piece of advice I strongly urge: never demean yourself by talking back to a critic, never. Write those letters to the editor in your head, but don't put them on paper."
Good advice, Roberto. Hard to do, but Truman was right. I'm sure he had more devious ways of getting even, though.