Thursday, February 23, 2006

Snakes on a Plane

The amount of debate in the blogoblog about my book review -- in which I suggested what’s-her-name is the worst writer of Generation Why -- took me by surprise.

As someone who doesn’t spend nearly as much time as he should reading local blogs, I have been very impressed by the intelligence and level of debate floating around the internets. I am also very humbled by the dedication many bloggers have, in terms of their publishing schedule.

Habermas would be proud.

What I found most interesting was that by the time a print media response to the book review hit stands on Thursday, February 16 (that would the day I discovered I was Mr. Warren Kinsella's chew toy), the various elements of the issue had already been very thoroughly and thoughtfully debated and digested online. Blogs rule OK!

I did not think for a moment that anyone would waste ink and pulp on the issue. One or two blog postings, maybe. A short paragraph in Frank, perhaps. But not this.

The incident just made its way into Now, in their Upfront section. I feel as though I have been scalded with lukewarm water. This new (and I hope final) wave of commentary appears to be the result of the Star’s clarification on Sunday (February 19), which explained that I was not an unbiased, objective reviewer. This should have been made explicit in the original review, as many people have pointed out. There was a miscommunication between my editor and myself regarding the conflict of interest, which I regret.

To conclude, I have a few corrections and comments I would like to make, before never mentioning the whole mess ever again. None of my bulleted points are designed to provoke further debate, since one of the main goals of the review was to encourage everyone to stop talking about her. (I failed big time on that front.) These are observations, not provocations.

* Kinsella, in his February 16 column, suggests that SaumassigeSchreibmaschiene is not a real word. Let me be clear: I consulted with a native German speaker, and I can assure you that SaumassigeSchreibmaschiene is a compound word that translates, roughly, into exactly what I said it does.

* Kinsella mentions a photo on my website where I am wearing black nail polish. That photo was taken five years ago. I will endeavor to update my website appropriately.

* Alex Good, over at Good Reports, strikes me as someone that I would enjoy having a coffee with and discussing his frustrations with book reviewing in Canada. I realize he is not my biggest fan, but that’s OK. I agree with some of his complaints, as they appear to echo Henighan’s sentiments in When Words Deny the World, a book that I like far more than I dislike.

* I was very pleased to see someone mention Andy Lamey’s debilitating book review of Crossing the Distance, a review which ran in issue #56 (1999) of Canadian Notes & Queries. Lamey’s review should be taught in university lit-crit classes – it is simply that good. Dale Peck could learn things from Lamey. If my recent review was considered one-third as good as Lamey’s, I would be happy. (A few blogs suggested it was not even close on that score.)

* As I get older, I find that anonymous (or non-anonymous) critiques and even cheap shots bother me far less. In fact, I was heartened to learn that some people don’t care about either me or her -- or, even better, have no inkling of who either of us are. That is healthy. That is good. That puts things in the proper perspective. As another person commented, this is a topic interesting only to a select group of Toronto media folk who live within a 10 or 15 block radius of each other. Here here.

I can only imagine what I am in for if I ever manage to publish another book. In lieu of a written critique, I envision a photograph of the assigned reviewer urinating on my tome.