NY Daily News editor Alexander Nazaryan admits he “snidely savage[d]” the work of debut novelists Keith Gessen and Nathaniel Rich because he was bitter about not finishing his own book. Nazaryan goes on to confess: “I did not like their novels. But my dislike was set aflame by jealousy of young men whose profiles were similar to mine and who had managed to do what I had not.” The stunning admission plays into the secret fear and disdain many writers have of and for literary critics and reviewers; even as it swings from mea culpa to raison d’etre and a call to arms:
The printed word is not ailing because of Kindles or Kardashians but because we haven’t the writers to revive it, those for whom Hemingway’s edict to write “one true sentence” trumps all else. Either they are discouraged or unloved or pushed out of the marketplace by those whose glossy ephemera looks slightly better on the shelf.
I have no idea if I will harpoon my whale, but even if I am not going to be a writer of books, I am always going to be a reader of them. And thus I want great books, books for our own time, written by those who have staked everything on literature, not just a couple of years in Iowa City. If I am not going to write them, at least someone else should.
He ends his post by saying: “…if you hear the demon that Faulkner heard, if the above passage fills you with urgency about your own craft, however imperfect it may yet be, then you and I are brothers in arms.”
I’m not a brother, obviously, but I’m refreshed by his honesty, and as a sister-scribe, I hope he eventually gets his work published. In the meantime, I hope he’s recused himself from reviewing books.