Thursday, February 17, 2005

Le Mot Juste, In This Case

I am unlikely to ever be on the business end of a book review in the New York Times. But suppose I was, and the reviewer said nasty hurtful things about me and my life's work. Suppose their chosen reviewer felt that my style was leaden, my thesis indefensible, and that I generally - to use a foreshadowing Queenanism - ate it raw. Perhaps this reviewer would even call me a jackass. It's the New York Times, after all; they brook no tomfoolery. I can only hope that I would do the decent thing - ceremonially burn a copy of the newspaper and go about my day, perhaps with my jaw slightly clenched. I hope that this is what I would do. I hope I wouldn't write an anguished response with the headline "I Am Not A Jackass", like this guy did.
He referred to me as a ''jackass.'' A jackass. In The New York Times Book Review. I flipped around to the other reviews. Did they call Philip Roth a doofus? Did they call Gish Jen a nitwit? No, just me. A jackass.
That's right. I'm glad to see the message is getting across.

I'm a huge fan of Joe Queenan, whose original review should be accessible here even after the target's contemplation of his own navel is banished to the premium archive. It's gold from the first sentence. Read it if you don't believe me.