Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Mary Beard skewers Zadie Smith on Trajan's column

I was greatly amused by a blog post at Times Online that asks whether authors should respond to their critics:

The truth is that no one ever scrutinises a review with quite the obsessive intensity as the book’s author. The chances are that your self-defence will actually draw attention to your alleged inadequacies. And there’s a high risk too that you’ll come across as more miffed than traduced. Unless the allegations are career threatening (plagiarism and the like) or your letter is drop-dead clever and witty, it may be better to hold your horses, to wait and see if anyone writes in on your behalf, and claim the dignified high ground.

What goes for the author also goes, even more so, for the criticized reviewer. So all this preamble is by way of saying that this post is about to (half-)break my own rule.

From there, Mary Beard proceeds to defend herself against novelist Zadie Smith's response to Ms. Beard's criticism of a new book on the art of war as practiced by the ancient Romans. But not to worry--Ms. Beard doesn't get snarky. She presents a lively and facinating argument which is followed by several reader comments containing some wicked good zingers. (The most recent comments appear at the top, so start at the bottom or you won't get the jokes.)

If you're not yet snorting at this post's title, it's because you haven't clicked through to view the article and the accompanying photograph. Go on, at least have a quick look. This is the kind of stuff that makes the blogisphere so much fun.

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