Sunday, January 6, 2008

Toronto Star Book Reviewer Retires

There's a job vacancy opening up at the Toronto Star. The Star's Book Reviewer for the last 18 years (Philip Marchand) is retiring.

Our book critic says farewell

As book reviewer and general reader both, we can only be grateful for moments when we encounter certain writers – Margaret Atwood at her best, in her short stories, and Alice Munro, of course, and Barbara Gowdy and Wayne Johnston and Guy Vanderhaeghe, when they are at the top of their game. When they're not at the top of their game, it is also, needless to say, the duty of a critic to point that out.


As books columnist I was expected not only to review books but also to write about such things as the government's Baie Comeau policy. Don't ask me what that was. It had to do with foreign ownership of publishing companies and was considered very important at the time.

I also covered meetings of the Writers Union, where highly emotional debates over issues such as "appropriation of voice" raged. At the first such meeting, held in Kingston in the spring of 1990, I called in my story, over a pay phone, to the re-write desk – a practice, in those pre-BlackBerry days, that was already beginning to feel archaic and, in my case, would seldom be repeated.

One thing that has remained the same, however, is the never-ending debate over the art of book reviewing, particularly as practised in Canada. In a comprehensive article titled "Adventures in the Reviewing Trade," published in the Spring/Summer edition of Canadian Notes & Queries (CNQ), critic Alex Good points out certain constants in that debate – the tendency of reviewers generally to go easy on books, for example.

So which one of us addicts will be applying for this new job?

1 comment:

Carrie K said...

If only I lived in Canada and had more descriptive words for book reviews than "interesting" and "intriguing", I'd be the natural choice.