Libel and Academic Book Reviews

by Henry Farrell on February 25, 2010

Via a CT reader, this “rather horrifying attempt to hold an academic journal criminally responsible”: (PDF) for publishing a negative book review and then refusing to suppress it. As Joseph Weiler, the editor of the _European Journal of International Law_ describes the culmination of his saga:

… on 26 September 2008 I received a Subpoena to appear before a French Examining Judge in connection with an investigation of alleged criminal libel based on a complaint made by Dr Calvo-Goller essentially replicating the complaints in her first letter to me. … in libel cases, all investigations of the merits of the case are exclusively reserved for the Criminal Court itself and, therefore, as a direct consequence of the complaint being filed, it was necessary that I be referred to the Court for trial. The date for the trial has now been set for 25 June 2010.

The review (in the _European Journal of International Law_ ) is “decidedly pungent”:, but (without commenting on the legal aspects,which I know nothing about) it seems to my eyes to be well within the usual norms of academic book reviewing (where a general tendency towards back-slapping congeniality is leavened by occasional fits of vigorous criticism). Weiler asks that academics who are upset at Dr. Calvo-Goller’s novel approach to managing the fallout from negative book-reviews send letters of “indignation/support” by email attachment (preferably with letterhead and affiliation) to, especially if they are editors or book review editors for other journals. He also asks that people send scanned or digital copies of other caustic book reviews to this address, so as to demonstrate that Dr. Calvo-Goller’s unhappy experience at the hands of a critic is nothing unusual. As an occasional author of “uncomplimentary book reviews”: myself, I encourage people both (a) to send such reviews in and (b) to link them in comments, especially if they are well written. I do wonder whether Dr. Calvo-Goller appreciated the notoriety that she would accrue through her actions; The _Chronicle_ already “has a piece”: on this, _Inside Higher Ed_ won’t be far behind, and I wouldn’t at all be surprised at all if this story breaks out into the mainstream press.

And your mother’s a minger!

by Maria on February 25, 2010

Oh dear. Half of Greece is now protesting against the EU as the cause of budget cuts, and not, say, their own lying government(s), aversion to tax and an enormous black economy. They could even more logically protest about Goldman Sachs’ role in the affair. But no, it’s all the Germans’ fault.

Invoking the European statesman’s version of Godwin’s Law, Greece’s deputy prime minister Theodoros Pangalos says Germany never paid proper reparations following its occupation of Greece in 1941:

“They took away the Greek gold that was at the Bank of Greece, they took away the Greek money and they never gave it back. This is an issue that has to be faced sometime in the future,” Mr Pangalos told the BBC World Service.

“I don’t say they have to give back the money necessarily but they have at least to say ‘thanks’,” he added.
[click to continue…]

Writing tips

by Henry Farrell on February 25, 2010

The Guardian’s “Ten Rules for Writing Fiction”: feature has gotten a lot of attention. Here are “Tim Howard’s supplementary guidelines”:

3. “When in doubt, have a man come through the door with a meat lovers pizza in his hands.” (Chandler)

4. Never use a verb other than “ejaculated” to carry the dialogue, eg. “‘I don’t really know what to say to you, Ivan Ivanych,’ Nastasya Petrovna ejaculated tearfully.” (Chekhov)

5. Use as many exclamation points as possible! No! Really! Do! ! !

Feel encouraged to suggest others in comments. Via “MJH”:

Dante’s Inferno

by John Holbo on February 25, 2010

You’ve probably heard about this. Surely we can get a thread’s worth of comments, eh? I’m awaiting the inevitable backwash of an actual edition of Dante’s poem with imagery from the game on the cover. But someone came up with that joke already. What next? Obviously video game adaptation is most natural when you have ‘levels’ or ‘generations’, and episodic picaresqueness is a plus. Vanity Fair? (You play Becky Sharp, climbing the social ladder, winning over various representative males in the Boss Fights.) Buddenbrooks?

OK, then, what about this: it’s obvious that the way to do this right would have been as an installment in the Mario series: Mario’s Comedy. With Peach as Beatrice, Bowser as Satan, Luigi as Virgil, providing ‘super guide’ assistance’. Or maybe Virgil should be a Toad. I’m flexible. And the rest of the cast. Mushrooms and King Boo and Koopas and Yoshis and big biting metal balls on chains, disporting in appropriate spiritual attitudes. Lava and ice and howling wind. Various souls trapped in blocks you free by jumping on them, then carrying them to the end of the level, maybe.

Italian guy loves princess, Italian guy loses princess, Italian guy has to struggle through level after level, eventually fighting the Big Boss, to get Princess back again. Writes itself. Nine Levels. Plus climbing the Mountain of Purgatory. Then Paradiso could be the video you watch after you’re done. Boring stuff, but running on kinda long. Like the original. (YouTube mashup artists, take it away!)

Since this isn’t the way we’ve gone, apparently, I think our second best option would be to adapt, say, Super Mario Brothers, as a terza rima epic. So that’s your assigned task in comments. Something about ‘midway along the path’, ‘running always to the right’, ‘jumping on people’s heads’. That sort of thing. If you choose to accept your mission.