Wednesday, 4 July 2012

Michael Lista vs Jan Zwicky: Reax

"The Good in Bad Reviews" is an excellent example of how negative reviews are sometimes more an exercise for the reviewer to flex and sharpen rather than really engage with the text.
E Martin Nolan:
Must the reviewer be the friend of the poet? Isn’t that a formula for forcing out bad positive reviews? And can one not negatively review out of love for poetry? Can one not see a book praised and say “I believe this praise to be false, and I take that as an offence to poetry, so this negative review is written out of love for the art form”? I think Lista was trying to get at that when he claims that a negative review can be just as “engaged” as a positive one.
Lorri Neilsen Glenn:
Hurling tomatoes (or swinging truncheons) tells us more about the wielder than the target. We know this: it’s a truism in psychology, education, and parenting so basic that it hardly bears repeating, but I will. If you’re quick to deflect any challenge to your way of seeing things and gain a certain frisson of delight (or release) in zinging others (the celebrated or the novice), and in bringing them down a peg -- too often a dudeliocentric way of reviewing and conversing -- then perhaps it’s time to ask: what emotions of your own are you not addressing? What are you afraid of?
Kevin McNeilly:
Lista seems to mistake his own meanness and invective for candour and critical acuity.
Matt Rader:
Lista is welcome to write all the negative reviews his truth loving heart desires. I fully support his right to do so. But the bit where he chastises Zwicky and wags his indignant finger at the unethical chutzpah of calling for a reviewing of silence strikes me as hilariously misguided. To use this platform to position himself as the emancipator of women from Zwicky's imperial shadow is comedy of the blackest sort. It behooves him to start listening to not just the words but the melody.
Jan Zwicky:
I share with Mr. Lista the view that works of art can shake us to our foundations, and that there is nothing wrong with admitting that we have been deeply moved by a certain writer. I’ll go further: such admissions are a form of excellence. I even agree that if you can’t bear to have someone “disclose” that they don’t like your work, you shouldn’t publish. Where he and I part company is over the idea that a kick in the nuts is a good way to start a conversation.

1 comment:

jamespete said...

At the end of this Lista vs. Zwicky bout, Ross Leckie, editor of "The Fiddlehead," provided a referee's decision.

I cite it for its confused use of the term rhetoric. In his final paragraph, Leckie says, "I know all language is rhetoric and that I have deployed a variety of stratagems in my own commentary." Fair enough.

But earlier comes, "What if we scrub Lista’s commentary of its rhetoric? Does any substance remain?" Here we recognize the more popular take on rhetoric as fluff, mere packing, style as opposed to substance.

And here I shall assume the reader, familiar with how poetry works, can easily recall her favorite poets by their style. For example, Frost uses meter and rhyme. It's part of the whole poem and immoral, to my mind, to think you could scrub it away to get at something more real. No information comes to us unmarked by its environment.

So the Lista/Zwicky fight engages us on many levels: gender, ethics, literary, cultural. A search for an ultimate meaning or philosophical principle just another aspect.