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First Contests, Now Book Reviews, What’s Next?

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While I wholeheartedly support the idea of cleaning up the favoritism, cronyism, and old-boyism of the literary world, and although I definitely agree with trying to excise the bitterness, vindictiveness, and pettiness that permeates so many feuds in that same literary world, I just have to wonder where it’s going to end…

The Washington Post issued an apology for the scathing review it ran of John Irving’s new novel Until I Find You. While other newspapers have been equally critical, the Post’s review stated that the novel was a “mass of lazy, unrefined writing” that reads as if Irving woke from a recurring nightmare and started dictating compulsively.” The problem is that the Post’s review was written by Marianne Wiggins. And even though other critics hated the novel just as much, Wiggins is the only critic who was once married to a good friend of Irving’s.

Irving complained to the newspaper, pointing out that he had a personal relationship with Wiggins. Irving dedicated his novel A Son of the Circus to Salman Rushdie, Wiggins’ ex-husband. The newspaper generally requires critics to sign agreements that “any contact, friendly or otherwise, with the author of this book” must be disclosed. The newspaper apologized to readers and said that if they had known about the ex-husband dedication and that “Irving and Wiggins had socialized with each other in the past, we would not have made the assignment.”

According to a report in the paper, neither Rushdie or Wiggins returned calls seeking comment.