Monday, July 12, 2010

Zachariah Wells Says it Much Better Than I Could

Zachariah Wells, over at CNQ, responds to the Andre Alexis essay that was recently published in the Walrus. I think it adroitly identifies some of the key things that Alexis overlooked in his argument, including:
With Ryan Bigge, the case is weaker yet—no better than speculation, really. The only piece of evidence I know of linking Bigge to Metcalf is Bigge’s publication of a review of a book by Andrew Pyper in Canadian Notes & Queries. While Metcalf has long been on CNQ’s masthead, he is not the reviews editor. That job, at the time of Bigge’s review, belonged to Michael Darling, who also once commissioned me to write a review for CNQ. I subsequently joined CNQ as an editor and replaced Michael as reviews editor when he stepped down in 2006. I have served in that capacity for approximately four years, during which time I have had very limited exchanges with John Metcalf, who has never once told me what to have reviewed, nor whom I should hire to write for CNQ. I therefore think it entirely probable that Ryan Bigge has never had so much as a conversation with Metcalf, never mind the paranoid notion that Bigge is some kind of Metcalf acolyte.

If the Metcalf, Marchand, Starnino or Bigge of your essay appeared in a novel, say, the author of that novel might justly be charged with creating cardboard characters. It strikes me as a singular failure of imagination on your part—a failure made wilful by the suppression of facts—that you can only see, or choose only to portray, one dimension of these rather complex individuals. You speak of “the shallow, self-aggrandizing rhetoric that now passes for criticism.” Do you really want to go there? In this essay? Do you really believe that all Carmine Starnino does is insult poets? Or was this another rhetorical flourish? You leave an informed reader in the position of having to decide if you’re being ignorant or dishonest and neither option, needless to say, redounds to your credit. Is Bigge’s review of Leah McLaren’s book actually representative of his normal reviewing approach? Is this someone who reviews for the sole purpose of avenging hurts suffered? Is he allowed no mulligans on your course?

I believe I deserve a mulligan. I've certainly earned it at this point.