Quill and Quire


« Back to

The reviewing agenda

Globe and Mail books editor Martin Levin weighs in on the controversy about the Washington Post review of John Irving’s new novel. (To recap: reviewer Marianne Wiggins savaged the book in the Post, but the paper repudiated the review after Irving pointed out that Wiggins is the ex-wife of a close friend of his, Salman Rushdie).

The issue, then, is one of reviewer bias, and Levin concludes that in the small CanLit scene, finding a completely disinterested reviewer is unlikely. “For that reason, we will sometimes allow acquaintances to review one another’s work, but ask that the review itself disclose any relationship.”

A case in point that some readers may remember would be David Young’s review of Michael Ondaatje’s novel Anil’s Ghost, back in 2000. Young’s review begins thusly: “A necessary caveat: Michael Ondaatje is an old and very dear friend of mine and I am a great admirer of his writing.” This is irrelevant, Young goes on to say, because the book is so very wonderful.

Offhand, we can’t think of a Globe review in which the writer confessed a bias and then went on to attack the book, but for anyone who wishes to jog our memory, please do so.

Related links:
Click here for Martin Levin’s Globe and Mail column
Click here for an earlier Slate piece about the Wiggins/Irving case