Post Your Opinion
What`S In A Name?
by Doris Cowan

Returning to the tradition of the anonymous reviewer wouldn`t be such a bad idea ...would it? CONFESS THAT when I was editor of this magazine there was something that I always wanted to do, but I never had the nerve. But what one doesn`t dare to do one often enjoys recommending to others. Now that I live deep in the country (never mind where), far from the stress, turmoil, and fiendish gossip of Toronto, I have a suggestion to make. Everybody complains about the state of book reviewing in Canada, but nobody does anything about it. Why not bring back that venerable literary institution, the anonymous (or pseudonymous) review? The other week, I was visiting Toronto and having lunch with my literary friends X, Y, and Z. I thought I`d try the idea out on them. "Of course;` I said, "we`ll never have honest book reviewing until we have unsigned reviews." They looked at me in consternation. "But don`t you think an honest book reviewer is necessarily the one who signs his reviews, and takes responsibility for them?" asked Y. "Well, no, not necessarily. Honesty means saying what you really think, and...` `And besides," she interrupted me, "I always look to see who`s reviewing what, and read the interesting ones first. With some names it`s like, Aha! I want to know what she thinks of that. The reviewer`s name and history are part of the package ...not to mention his credentials: whether he or she is qualified to review anything:" "Of course you`d always have to have signed feature reviews and articles. And books with specialized content should be reviewed by recognized scholars whenever possible. But even there, the reviewer can include any relevant details of his bias or background in the text of the review, so why is the name important? The expertise should be evident in the writing." "But what about people with axes to grind? What about vendettas? If I`m reading a review written by the author`s worst enemy I want to know it." "Only a malicious editor would give a book to the author`s enemy, and if he did he`d want you to know it, too. What would be the point of printing that review, otherwise? Certainly not to further fair criticism. But if you assume that any reviewer, even an honest one, will be prejudiced or constrained in some way, how does it help the cause of honesty to have him sign the review? What if he really doesn`t like the book, but is certain to run into the author socially or professionally? Wouldn`t he be more likely to say plainly that he doesn`t like it, and why, if he can do it anonymously?" "It would also free him to be irresponsibly destructive, or to shamelessly puff his friends." "Yes, of course, but how would that differ from what we have now?" Their counter-arguments were beginning to wear me

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