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