William Giraldi vs. Alexander Chee: The NYT Alix Ohlin Chainsaw
“What a giant pile of horseshit this review is. Alix deserved better. This is a disgrace. Also, to review the reviewer, William Girardi can’t write worth a damn. This reads like a frantic doily stretched to fit around his narcissistic projections on literature, himself and Alix. May we all be spared anything from him further.” – Alexander Chee
Chee then quoted Giraldi and tacked on: “‘When self-pity colludes with self-loathing and solipsism backfires into idealism, the only outcome is insufferable schmaltz.’ Yes, Giraldi. This in fact describes your review.”
Gee whiz Chee, so let me get this straight, you evidently disliked Giraldi’s review because ‘Alix deserved better’, and to hammer the point you take a cheap shot at Giraldi?
Chee, though, had an ally in hitman Richard “Three Fingers” Bausch, who responded, “I’m working on a mystery novel in which a critic like this is murdered and there are seven thousand three hundred and fifty two suspects.”
What is the matter with some writers? Anis Shivani, after his “The 15 Most Overrated Contemporary Writers“, and Dale Peck, with Hatchet Jobs, pissed people off. Why? I don’t go out of the way to review bad books. I usually don’t finish them. But a couple times I received a review copy, finished, engaged, and felt the crappy novel deserved a howl, and that’s my call. Reviewers shouldn’t fear offending tissue paper shelled writers and their fans/friends, they should address readers. I’ll bet many people who never heard of Ohlin now have, and some may even buy her book as a result of this publicity. She’ll survive.
As for Girardi, I’ve read stories by him, not his novel, but he can write. His NYT review gets absurd (he criticizes the title), but he hated Ohlin’s work and unleashed. So? I have not read Ohlin thus cannot defend her fiction, but: 1) to hate negative criticism and take similar cheap shots is lame. 2) Giraldi’s opinion is just that, deal or move on.
I said all this to Chee, in so many words, and he responded with, and I quote verbatim, “Hey, fuck you.”
UPDATE: Great review on topic by Bill Marx of NYT book critic Dwight Garner’s take on Jack Green’s Fire the Bastards. “The book world doesn’t need more yes-saying novelists and certainly no more yes-saying critics. We need more excellent and authoritative and punishing critics—perceptive enough to single out the voices that matter for legitimate praise, abusive enough to remind us that not everyone gets, or deserves, a gold star.” – Dwight Garner
Bill Marx also cites Edmond Wilson’s battle cry against the incestuous world of writers, while he reminds us that going overboard has flaws as well. Good stuff, Bill.
Writers need to remember: Praise everyone and you praise no one.
Related: On the absence of hatchet-work amongst Canada’s Book Reviewers – by Brian Fawcett at dooneyscafe.com
David Foster Wallace @NYTimes: Borges on the Couch