NY Times Screwed Up Book Review by Jew

What is wrong with this book review? Well in the letters to the book review there is a discussion of whether Tony Judt should or should not have reviewed a book by a writer who reviewed his book in an obscure journal. The Times checked with Tony to make sure he had no conflict of interest because that is their policy.

To the Editor:

Tony Judt’s bitter criticism of Michael Burleigh’s “Sacred Causes” (March 11) needs to be questioned. Could the reviewer of this “depressing and unpleasant book” have had in mind Burleigh’s respectful but less-than-exuberant review of Judt’s own work, “Postwar,” in The Tablet of London (Jan.7, 2006)? “In an avowedly ‘opinionated’ book, perhaps the only thing missing is the author’s capacity to examine his own assumptions and prejudices. These are evident whenever Judt discusses the Catholic Church, Christian Democracy or any form of conservatism.”

Is there not a conflict of interest here? Surely, it is unusual for an author who has been severely criticized by a reviewer to then turn around and even more severely attack the reviewer’s own book. What ever happened to the principle of “full disclosure”?

William Doino
Weston, Conn.

Tony Judt replies:

William Doino should not be so quick to jump to conclusions. I don’t read The Tablet — I was unaware of its existence — and I didn’t know that Burleigh had reviewed my book there. My only conflict of interest when reviewing “Sacred Causes” arose from Burleigh’s obsession with “the visceral anti-Catholicism of many Jews and among the secular left intelligentsia” (e.g., me) and my inability to take seriously a historian who describes Jürgen Habermas as “a sinisterly silly guru of revolution.” But I could not have known of Burleigh’s prejudices until I read his book.

The editor replies:

The Book Review’s policy is to ask prospective reviewers if they are aware of any possible or theoretical conflicts that might prejudice their reviews of a particular book, as the editor did in the case of Tony Judt’s assignment. Judt satisfied the Book Review that there was no conflict, and we are confident that he was unaware of Burleigh’s review of “Postwar,” which was in fact largely positive.

I am so impressed with all the professional concern the editors show to avoid even a smattering of suspicion that there is no agenda motivating the assessment of a book...

Then I turn the page and see a Jew, LEON WIESELTIER, reviewing a book by a Palestinian, SARI NUSSEIBEH.

What? Are you nuts? There is no way that this is cricket.
'Once Upon a Country: A Palestinian Life'

In a political memoir, a Palestinian scholar criticizes, but does not hate, Israel.

And anyhow there are some other interesting reviews in the mixed up insert to the newspaper of record....
'Crazy '08'

Twenty-five cents would get you into a ballpark where whiskey, waffles and pigs’ knuckles were served. Has baseball ever been better than it was in 1908?

'The Cheater's Guide to Baseball'

If you ever wanted to throw a spitball or cork a bat, Derek Zumsteg can tell you how.

'Radicals for Capitalism'

A history of libertarianism from the Austrians to Ayn Rand and beyond.

'In the Footsteps of the Prophet'

An interpretive biography of Muhammad sheds light on the political philosophy of its controversial author.

France Uncovered
'Why the French Don’t Like Headscarves'

The culture and politics of the French ban on Muslim head scarves in schools.

'Stacked: A 32DDD Reports From the Front'

The book is a celebration, neither prudish nor depraved, of “female orbs” in all their hypnotic glory.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I love Leon, but he was if anything, too kind to the book's subject. He bent over backwards.