Monday, November 02, 2009

Oh, Mark Danner, just take it like a man for goodness sake.

Over at the pop culture festival that is The Awl, every once in a while they have something that is worth passing on to the six of you who check in on a regular basis. The something, in this case, is the very mean spirited, very public cat fight that author Mark Danner is about to have with his reviewer and (depending on which man you ask) friend George Packer. What fight? Well, in a nutshell Mark Danner wrote a book, George Packer didn't like it, wrote as such in the New York Times Book Review, and now Mark Danner is having a hissy fit. What was Mr. Packer's tone? Here is a small snippet of his review of Stripping Bare the Body: Politics, Violence, War:

Untethering his essayistic ambitions from ground-level journalism does not serve Danner well. A tendency toward inflated writing and overstatement starts to appear: there are too many self-­dramatizing turns of phrase, like “The first time I was killed, or nearly so”; too many moments when the writer, confronted with a destroyed city or a bloody mess of dismembered bodies, finds George F. Kennan or Henry James coming to mind.
Ok, not too nice but so the-hell-what?!? So George Packer didn't like your book? Boo hoo...if it is worth reading it will be read, but if, as I suspect, you are so stung by one person's opinion that you need to write a full page letter in response to the New York Times (to be published this coming Sunday), then Mr. Packer's criticisms might just be on the mark, eh? How angry is Mark Danner? Well, they only have a short extract of next week's letter but here it is (click on the image to see a larger, readable jpg):

Add Image
If you want the overall tone of his letter, you can get it from the final sentence which reads:

"The corrosive tendentiousness at work here warps much of what Packer writes and accounts for his near superhuman ability to ignore what is on the page. Plus, everyone knows George Packer is a big, fat, yucky head." (Ok, that last sentence was mine alone. Funny, though, right?)

It is in such bad taste to respond to a review with a temper tantrum that Mark Danner gets a special commendation for being the biggest baby around right now. Good work, Mr. Danner! My advice? Just ignore the whole thing? If you had, a smart ass like myself wouldn't have even been aware of the bad review and I probably would've read your book as I was profoundly moved by your book on the Massacre at El Mozote. But now? Um, probably not...and not because George Packer said not to (though he really didn't), but because rewarding such stupid behavior might just encourage others to do what you've done.

Sheesh! Grow up! Even Rick Moody, when called "the worst novelist of his generation," simply brushed off the criticism and continued on with his successful career. I mean who the hell remembers B.R. Myers the author of that snarky comment anymore anyway?

*** UPDATE***

The full letter from Mark Danner was published on Sunday in the New York Times. You can find it here and George Packer's response here.

Packer's response is a marvel of "I don't know why he's so upset" writing. I am not picking sides here but the feud sure is fun to watch from the sidelines.

1 comment:

Nadine Laman said...

Bravo! These fusses happen all the time and are so boring. I agree with you, don't reward the tantrum.