Monday, February 20, 2006

Feud for thought.

I know you folks are just dying to learn the latest from the Bigge/McLaren pillow fight... (If you're just joining us, see this post and this one.)

So: Dan Smith, book editor at the Star, printed a sorta mea culpa for Bigge's review in yesterday's paper.
What we didn’t tell readers last week, and we should have, is that Star reviewer Bigge had previously, in 2001, been on the receiving end of a decidedly nasty putdown of not just his own debut book, the semi-memoir A Very Lonely Planet, but also his person — at the hands of one Leah McLaren, in the Globe.

The result of this failure to arm readers with knowledge of Bigge’s animus — and the buck stops here for that — helped fuel an unprecedented, week-long catfight of venom, finger-pointing and character assassination in the heavily trafficked blogosphere, where many CanLit players and wannabees hunt. It’s been wild....

Let us share one salient fact: The CanLit wading pool is far too tiny to ever guarantee three degrees of separation, never mind six — although we really should do better than one, as in Bigge’s case. In a little world of juried state-sponsored publishing, conflict of interest is never far away....

Last word to Andrew Potter, Maclean’s magazine columnist and co-author of The Rebel Sell, guest-blogging last week on Andrew Coyne’s blog, in which he discusses his own tit-for-tat, author-reviewing-author feud with Hal Niedzviecki in the pages of the Globe and Post: "Criticism is itself a form of writing. It is entertainment, and nothing, I mean nothing, is more entertaining than a good literary hair-pulling."
Well, we now know the Star book editor's position on book reviewing: That's entertainment, baby. Basically, Smith is saying, "Yeah, we really could have got somebody less biased to review the book. And, at the very least, we should have disclosed that Bigge had previously been bashed by McLaren. But it was fun, wasn't it?"

I could criticize that position. I could shout, "What did Smith know and when did he know it?" I could argue that the Books section deserves to be put together with the same journalistic integrity of any other section.

But I won't say these things. Because, well, I don't really disagree with Mr. Dan Smith. This was kind of fun, albeit ridiculous fun. But now we're so over it. And with that, On the Fence promises not to come back to this topic for a long while.

[Turning back, like Columbo.] Oh, just one more thing. There's another spin-off feud to emerge from this whole business: Me vs. Marc Weisblott.

In his latest Paved post about McLaren and Bigge, the Blaugerista refers to me as "a fellow fluff reporter." Ouch! I'm an arts reporter, not a "fluff" reporter. I write serious articles about culture. Perhaps the 'Blott hasn't been reading my weekly Hobbit Forming series in the Post, in which I investigate the healthy habits of the cast of the Lord of the Rings musical? Today, the Gollum understudy reveals the details of his biannual Wild Rose Cleanse.

That's some real journalism, blog boy. So, put up or shut up. Whatever that means.

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