| A Writer
901 Mission Street
San Francisco, CA 94103
for your courteous letter conveying how you perceive the
situation surrounding David Kipen's review of "The
Life and Adventures of Lyle Clemens." During the
years that I've been acquainted with you, I've known you
to be a person of high integrity. I don't question the
sincerity of your assertions.
But my view
is different from yours. The notion that I owe an apology
to Villalon appalls me. It is I and others insulted in
that review who are owed an apology from him and Kipen.
You may be
unfamiliar with this background: For months my publicist
queried Villalon about whether a review of my novel was
scheduled; such information is often given. After no response,
I wrote Villalon a letter of inquiry, followed by three
e-mails, the last one reminding that, at his insistence,
I accepted for review a book I felt unqualified for, a
biography of Eisenstein. I researched the subject and
wrote the review, which he front-paged.
e-mail was a reminder that professional courtesy was called
for. After no response, I informed you of his rude silence.
You answered that you were sending him a message calling
attention to my book and including the fact that "Steve
Wasserman had high praise" for it. Since only then
did Villalon respond, it was not remote to assume a connection
between his finally answering and your note conveying
Steve Wasserman's admiration. (Knowledge of the latter
is nastily clear in Kipen's diatribe.)
review--which has appalled many others--does not simply
indicate, as you state, "the ups and downs of criticism
in stark illustration." From the headline (donated
by Villalon?) to the end of the harangue, it amounts to
personal assault, ancient grudges and jealousies camouflaging
as criticism. I oppose censorship; but there is vast difference
between "independence" and license to pillage.
No periodical publishes everything as written when ethics
are violated, as they are in Kipen's spewing. Other book-review
editors might have admonished him.
Even his implicit
praise of "City of Night" reveals Kipen's ignorance.
The initial shrill reception to my first novel has been
recorded in articles--and in a recent biography about
me--citing hysteria like Kipen's. Didn't he realize he
was attempting the same sort of mugging now derided about
did not "invite" readers to read "other
more favorable reviews." To the contrary, he attempted
to dissuade that. In a breech of professional ethics,
not only did he denounce Grove Press for publishing my
novel, but he spilled his spite onto superior reviewers
who praised my book: "... watch out for review publications
that find a way to recommend a book this awful."
He refers to "two such outlets." Those "outlets"
are Publishers Weekly, whose editors awarded my novel
a stringently given star, and the Los Angeles Times Book
Review whose editors named my novel among the ten (not
only 100) best of the year.
He refers to attending "an awards dinner" at
which I was present--and doesn't mention that I was being
given PEN-West's Lifetime Achievement Award. He places
the dinner in "a ballroom full of [my] past and present
students [who] cheered themselves hoarse and clapped themselves
numb." Many of my students were there; but there
were even more professional people, distinguished editors,
members of PEN, publishers from all over the country (including
Morgan Entrekin of Grove Press), an array of respected
authors and journalists who joined in two standing ovations.
Indeed, you may have been in attendance, [name withheld].
wit, awkwardly written--scrawled--reeking of latent animosities,
Kipen's review extends his insults to Susan Sontag; he
has no idea what she's saying, what he's quoting. He attempts
to swipe at "incorrigibly couplet-happy Alexander
Pope." Pope, incorrigible? Pope, couplet-happy? So
says the giddy Kipen.
As a veteran
of 40 years on the literary frontlines, I do not deserve
the disrespect Kipen madly--and, I must admit, sadly and
desperately--aimed at me. That Villalon permitted such
a disgraceful performance without caution extends the
breech to him.
You have manifested
high regard for authors, including having launched the
Book Fair most widely attended. Can you, then, even implicitly
support Kipen's harangue, Villalon's condoning it? Can
you still suggest that an apology from other than them
is due?--an apology to my publishers, prominent editors
disparaged, and to me.
I hope your
schedule--and, indeed, [name withheld] --permits you at
least to skim my novel (which is one of my very best,
one I long wanted to write, exploring the possibility
of the 18th century form in a modern novel). Then I would
ask you, Does it deserve Kipen's rabid bleating?
Warm regards to you and Robert,
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Original material by John Rechy appears
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