The Response to the NYTBR Review of Alix Ohlin

Self had been expecting a response of some kind to the William Giraldi review of two books by the Canadian writer Alix Ohlin.  She thought, while she was reading it (in the Aug. 19 issue of the NYTBR):  No way are the publishers going to take this sitting down!  Basically, the review trotted out the names of a whole slew of eminent writers, and showed how Ohlin failed to measure up.  Self thought it was a rather pointless exercise.  She is sure, if someone compared self’s writings to that of Alice Munro, she would come up very, very short.

Today, while self was perusing the 2 September 2012 issue of the NYTBR, she saw, in the Letters to the Editor, a response to the Ohlin review by someone from Santa Barbara, California.  Not the publisher, not the author’s editor, not even someone who knew Ohlin personally, but someone who had read Ohlin’s first novel and enjoyed it.

According to the letter-writer:

. . .  readers are served a steaming bowl of vitriol . . .  that even includes petty complaints about the books’ titles.  While faulting Ohlin for the purported wretchedness of her metaphors, he squeezes out such memorable phrases as “flies around like kites in a waning zephyr,” “stiffened in a morgue of mentation” and “the cosmos takes on a coruscated import.”  He notes that the word “weird” is “the most worthless word in English.”  His preferred descriptions include “insufferable,” “appalling,” “abysmal,” “bland,” “obscene,” and “enervated.”

I don’t care to imagine the small, stale world Giraldi appears to inhabit, but I did enjoy spending time with the characters Ohlin invented for her novel.  Unlike the self-portrait painted by the reviewer, these individuals were vital, complex and engaging.

Wonder when that response from the publisher will be coming.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

2 Comments

  1. October 3, 2012 at 12:37 am

    Reviewers can be wrong, bitter, jealous or just having a bad day.

    Kyi

  2. October 3, 2012 at 2:36 am

    In our profession, it helps to have a thick skin. And to have people like the letter writer, who believe in your work.

    I was really surprised at that review, though. It was a whole page. I haven’t seen a review that negative in the pages of the NYTBR for a while: it’s a rare enough event that I took notice.


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