Saturday, April 20, 2013

Review my sister's book!

Last month, Christopher Buckley reviewed my sister Lucy Ellmann’s new novel Mimi in the New York Times Sunday Book Review for March 17, 2013. He didn’t seem to like it much. I won’t link to it, but you can look it up.

It’s not so easy to refute a book review. Of course every reviewer is entitled to his – or her – opinion. (Usually “his”: most reviewers at the Book Review, and a number of other journals, are men, as shown in a recent statistical analysis by VIDA: Women in Literary Arts.) Nevertheless I wrote a letter to the Book Review in response. They haven’t printed it – perhaps they don’t like letters from authors’ brothers – but I will, here:

            To the Editor:

Christopher Buckley’s review of Lucy Ellmann’s new novel Mimi is so over the top in its hostility to the book that one searches for an explanation. Can he really be that upset about italics? Or could he possibly see the book’s Manifesto as an actual call for men to solve the world’s problems by giving all their money to women? Buckley asks a couple of times if perhaps he is missing the point, and wonders if the book should be read as a Swiftian modest proposal. In my opinion, that notion misses the point twice. The book is neither a tract nor a satire, but rather a romance, and its Manifesto is not advocacy but the imagined expression of a man who has at long last and after much suffering found love in a woman’s arms. The books Buckley imagines and dislikes aren’t the one Lucy Ellmann wrote.


Stephen Ellmann

PS: I am the author’s brother – but since Buckley finds time in his review to sniff about the “numerous Ellmanns” my sister includes in her acknowledgments, I feel I too have been touched by his review and have acquired a right of reply.

So what to do? Well, Lucy’s book features a Manifesto, and I wish to speak in similar vein:  

Literary critics of America, you have nothing to lose but your chains. Don’t be daunted by one man’s opinion. Read Lucy’s book and review it! 

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