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August 08, 2005

Fine, But Can You Get Kakutani's Pan Nullified?
I Suspect Not!

by Ron Hogan

John Irving's been getting his share of negative reviews for his "half good" new novel, Until I Find You, described by turns as "sloppy and long" (Slate), "a bloated, tedious bore" (Detroit Free Press) and "a pretty good 300-page novel hiding inside a not-very-good 800-plus page one" (Austin American-Statesman). So when Marianne Wiggins told WaPo readers last month the book "reads as if Irving woke from a recurring nightmare and started dictating compulsively," there was no particular cause for surprise. In fact, despite calling him out on "lazy, unrefined writing," Wiggins went out of her way to observe that Irving was capable of much better.

Turns out she's been close enough, as far as the Post is concerned, to really know what she's talking about. As the AP reports, Book World apologizes, at Irving's prompting, for assigning the review to Wiggins without knowing that "Irving had dedicated one of his earlier novels to [her] ex-husband, Salman Rushdie," or that "Irving and Wiggins had socialized with each other in the past." Personally, I think the detail of the dedication is a bit of misdirection--A Son of the Circus came out years after Rushdie and Wiggins divorced, which makes me suspect that it's been at least twelve years since Irving "socialized" with Wiggins. Not that the Post guidelines aren't necessary, of course, although I'll have to work that much harder to find a book I can safely review for them now...

UPDATE: Both David Montgomery and Sarah Weinman, who actually have Post experience, share their thoughts on the matter. Sarah, of course, has it tougher than most, because she's not only the mystery columnist for the Baltimore Sun, but an active presence in the mystery writers' community.

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