| The New Times
The "New Times"
article about me (called "The Romantic Egotist" for God
knows what reason since I don't consider myself a
"romantic") is well written by Scott Timberg. He
quoted me accurately most of the time, and that is rare in an
interview. Too, the layout (by Julie Ebel) was excellent,
lots of space, fine graphic display of photographs. I am grateful to
the editor of
that very good newspaper (Rick Barrs) for the generous treatment....
I have severe reservations about what Timberg did in that article.
He recklessly made an assessment of my literary work without having
read any of my novels other than "City of Night," and,
then, perhaps having read only parts of it. A writer can always tell
when that occurs, always; but in this instance, Timberg himself
indicated to me that he had read very little by me, and proceeded to
exemplify that by several times asking me about the content of this
book or that. During our interviews, I made the emphatic point to
him that I resented critics who posed at evaluating my work or
anyone else's for that matter while clearly not having read it.
Timberg followed the reprehensible tendency. I have always protested
such recklessness in reviewers and reporters. I have twice written
to the editors of the New York Times Book Review to expose such
bogus assessments. In one instance, Karen Brailsford, reviewing
"The Miraculous Day of Amalia Gomez," identified the
setting of that novel as East Los Angeles, apparently believing all
Mexican Americans live there.
The novel is set, for essential irony, in Hollywood. That is stated
in the opening paragraph of the novel. Brailsford's review is now
referred to as being particularly dumb in a book about Chicano
literature ("Border Matters" by Jose David Saldivar). In
another instance, the New York Times reviewer of my novel "This
Day's Death," Webster Schott, remarked that the reader never
knew why Jim Girard, the protagonist, goes to Griffith Park, where
he is arrested. I pointed out in my letter that within the novel
itself, had he read that far, he would have encountered a paragraph
that reads: "And why did Jim Girard go to the park that
day?" Then the question is answered. In a Publishers Weekly
Review of my novel "Marilyn's Daughter," the reviewer
cited as offensive a sexual passage because it involved Marilyn
Monroe (a heroine of mine) and Robert Kennedy. There is no such
scene. The reviewer obviously skimmed the book and stumbled upon one
sex scene that does not include either Marilyn Monroe nor Robert
Kennedy, and, from it, he/she made his/her heated conclusion....
Back to Timberg's piece. He quotes the fatuous stupidities of Alfred
Chester's review of "City of Night" in the New York Review
of Books back in 1963, a review the editor of the NYRB has, in
effect, apologized to me about. Timberg goes on to agree with some
of that reviewer's meanness and then generalizes it to extend to my
later work all without, again, his being familiar with it. Timberg
does the same with Gary Indian's equally fatuous review of "The
Coming of the Night" agreeing with a clumsily generalized
statement of my work that indicates that Indian is not quite
familiar with it either. So Timberg's unqualified assessment is
based on another unqualified assessment! Terrific integrity!
Unfortunately, this sort of thing is not rare; virtually every
author has had the frustrating experience of knowing that a reviewer
has not read his\her book...... In Timberg's article, the feud
between me and Michael Cunningham, once a writing student of mine at
UCLA, is rendered accurately. I don't hesitate to point out and I
have to Cunningham that in the article, he, Cunningham, emerges
quite grandly, and I emerge quite spitefully. Timberg tilted it
toward that effect; he did not quote me as emphasizing that,
whatever misunderstandings had occurred between Cunningham and
myself, I was steadfast in my assessment of him as a fine writer.
Still, as a result of Timberg's article, Cunningham and I have
clarified matters, and we are again on very good, friendly terms.
Despite my major reservations about Timberg's article, the
perception of it by readers of it is that it was "great"
because it's the presentation that people are impressed by--the
cover, the photos, the length; and all that was splendid.
Los Angeles, California
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Original material by John Rechy appears
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