Sunday, June 8, 2008

deferral

Wyatt Mason, who reviews for Harper's, the New Yorker and other magazines, has started a blog at the Harper's website called Sentences. Four posts are devoted to Mason's belief that writers who think their work has been unintelligently reviewed should respond publicly. The blog is not open to comments.

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

lol lol lol

Hassan said...

What about you, Helen? Would you agree that writers can respond to critics? Should they? Would you?

Personally, I don't see why not. But I feel it should be a matter of principle - if a critic is possibly misleading the reading public with reasoning that isn't transparently flawed, someone should speak up, I think. It shouldn't matter that that person happens to be the writer that wrote the book that the reviewer was going after at the time... But then, if I were the writer, I'm not sure I would care enough. I dunno. Who knows, I might...

Ithaca said...

Hassan, if you look at Harper's guidelines for letters to the editor, they say short letters are likelier to get published and all may be edited. So if you think, for instance, that a reviewer has oversimplified something that was complex, you are unlikely to get enough space to explain why.


I find it odd that many people think the 'fathers' tested by Ludo map onto the 7 samurai of Seven Samurai, not least because there are, um, only 6. It also seems self-evident that there is a difference between, on the one hand, putting together a fighting force whose strength must be determined by the fact that it faces 40 bandits, and, on the other, recruiting a father-substitute (there is no obvious reason why one would not suffice). The fact that reviewers sometimes make this mistake, though, doesn't mean the average reader does - and frankly, if most readers find the numbers above 3 a blur of lots and lots of fried ants, refinement of our literary criticism is the least of our worries.

hassan said...

"It also seems self-evident that there is a difference between, on the one hand, putting together a fighting force whose strength must be determined by the fact that it faces 40 bandits, and, on the other, recruiting a father-substitute."

Haha, yes, couldn't agree more. Motifs are fun to find and pick out (for some), but sometimes one stretches it a bit. I mean, if one actually watches the movie, it's actually rather hysterical to consider which father maps to which Samurai. Is Sorabji more of a Heihachi, or a even a Kyuzo? And most importantly, who was Kambei? Throw us a clue, Helen. Oh, go ahead. Just one. One.

:-) Yes, critics. Probably for most readers, a harmless species of the literary flora and fauna. Although sometimes a critic can say something so ridiculous that it almost works, and then it follows your favorite book around with you. For like Salman Rushdie said, a thought can be disagreed with, but can never be unthought. And sometimes you're sorry, just so incredibly sorry that you ever turned to look...