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Dear Editor,

I'm the author of a novel, Blackbodying, that Books In Canada recently had reviewed by Gordon Phinn. I am not opposed to negative reviews of my work, and as a journalist in my own right I fully understand the need to cultivate a culture of discriminating taste, but I have to say that Mr. Phinn's review seriously misses the mark on a number of fronts.
Firstly, Mr. Phinn is more interested in making grand and easy statements about Canadian Literature than he is in reviewing the novel at hand. In fact, a full 375 words of the 740-odd word review have nothing to do with the novel. To make matters painfully obvious, that's more than half the write-up.
Secondly, Mr. Phinn contrasts my work-the debut work of a 26-year-old on a very small regional press, no less-to the crowning achievements of several literary careers, as a means of depicting me as a "pallid impostor" (a claim I will return to shortly). The works he raises to bolster his points are Nabokov's Speak Memory, Michael Ondaatje's Running In The Family, Tom Stoppard's Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead, and Julian Barnes's A History of the World in Ten and a Half Chapters. He also brings up Alice Munro at random, which is at best a baffling reference.I am not interested in debating the relative nature and stature of these works to mine; that is not at issue. Rather I only want to point out that the basis for Mr. Phinn's argument, his comparison of mid-career and career highlight works to my debut novel, is grossly inappropriate.
Thirdly, throughout the review I am made out to be a "pallid impostor" who lacks "maturity and original vision". The novel's plot of Lebanese emigration is referred to as a "gypsy exile". The gypsy exile reference is culturally insensitive and condescending, smacking of the kind of Anglo-Saxon centricity that compromises the integrity of this country and its literature.
Gordon Phinn has written an overly opinionated and review that suggests more about his limitations as a critic than it does anything about my novel, which he only glosses and consequently misrepresents by focusing his pomo allegations on a few subtitles and one paragraph in the middle of the book. He makes no effort to elucidate anyone on the remaining 60,000 words, which have very little to do with his accusations. But since they don't fit his agenda, they're not deemed worthy of his commentary.
As a reviewer, he should be reminded that being afforded a critical voice in the public spectrum is a responsibility, not a luxury.
Dimitri Nasrallah,

Send your letter to: olga.stein@rogers.com

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