there’s also cronydom, the unwillingness to criticize a fellowncelebrity journalist, especially when it’s his word against thatnof the grieving widow of the late CIA director. Or maybenMartin is simply imbued with the modern notion that everynbit of journalism must be balanced: a quibble here, yes, butnoh, the merits . . .nPoor, benighted book reviewing—it’s been in bad odornfor a good 300 years, or ever since the first Englishlanguagenreview, the Historical Account of Books andnTransactions in the Learned World, came out in Edinburghnin 1688.nDuring the late 18th century publishers paid to have theirnbooks reviewed. The venality of the business was notorious,nand journalism in general was no place for gentlemen. In hisnHistory of England, Horace Walpole wrote that “as late asn1808, the Benchers of Lincoln’s Inn made a bye-lawnexcluding all persons who had written for the daily papersnfrom|being called to the Bar.” Such a climate was one of thenreasons why Sydney Smith and Francis Jeffrey and the othernfounders of the famous Edinburgh Review (1802) did notnsign their articles.nModern problems are a little different. But venality comesnin all varieties, and is always happy to modernize, if peoplenare no longer penning their own reviews, the way Poe didn(“works of the most notable character”), and Whitman ofncourse (“An American bard at last!”), and even ConradnAiken (who was quite harsh with himself), they are stillnreviewing their friends. One of the few positive reviews JaynMclnerney {oiBright Lights, Big City fame) got for his newnnovel, Story of My Life, was written by his friend P.J.nO’Rourke in The Wall Street Journal back in September, (“Inliked it a lot,” said O’Rourke when questioned about thenpropriety of reviewing a friend’s book. “But its subject willnbring out the envious and puritanical streak in mostnreviewers. So I reviewed it as a favor to the book, not Jay.”)nIn a piece he wrote for The New York Times, one of its dailynreviewers, John Leonard, spoke very frankly about reviewingna friend’s book. “I try to give it a good review,” he said. “If Indon’t like the way his mind works, why is he my friend?”nSpy magazine has a running monthly feature calledn”Logrolling,” which chronicles an ongoing series of mutualnadmiration societies: John Cheever and John Updike, GorenVidal and Italo Calvino, Anthony Burgess and RobertsonnDavies, with special notice to D.M. Thomas and EricanJong. “A tour de force,” Thomas wrote of her Serenissima.n”A treat for Erica Jong’s legion of readers.” And she innreturn praised his Summit by writing it “will delight andnamuse even Thomas’s most devoted readers. I am one.”nClearly, if before folks did their logrolling anonymously,nnow they do it in public.nOne of the last bastions of anonymity, the London TimesnLiterary Supplement, only started running signed reviews innJune of 1974. It was one of the major decisions its newneditor, John Gross, made. He stated, in an editorial explainingnthe change, that for him the “principle of personalnaccountability comes first,” i.e., authors have to stand bynwhat they have written, and stand by it publicly. But as henalso pointed out, you could argue just as well that anonymitynhelped ensure honesty: “When critics write under their ownnname, or so the argument runs, they are liable to beninhibited by all kinds of social and personal considerationsnfrom saying exactly what they feel.”nWe are not suffering, in the book business, from toonmuch honesty. It is all this admiration that’s the problem.nLong gone is the day when Byron could say, even facetiously,nthat Keats was killed by an article. (Both Blackwood’snMagazine and the more respectable and restrained QuarterlynReview blasted Endymion in 1818.) Compare FrancisnJeffrey’s famous piece on Wordsworth in the EdinburghnReview, which began so archly, “This will never do,” withnthe carefully worded caveats in the Times.nIn a piece he wrote for ThenNew York TimeSy one of its dailynreviewers, John Leonard, spokenvery frankly about reviewing anfriend’s book. “I try to give it angood review,” he said. “If Indon’t like the way his mindnworks, why is he my friend?”nThink of the Times taking up the Edinburgh Review’snmotto: judex damnatur cum nocens absovitur, or “the judgenis condemned when the guilty is acquitted.” It strains thenimagination. In an effort to be “balanced,” Times reviewersnwill often couch their criticism in so much fluff that anyncaveat gets suffocated, even when the problems are major;nVeil is the perfect example. What would have been biting,nperhaps even ad hominem, criticism in the EdinburghnReview or Blackwood’s or Poe’s Broadway Journal is, in thenTimes, an oppressive lack of enthusiasm. That’s it. And asnI’ve mentioned, as The New York Times Book Review goes,nso goes the rest of the nation.nAll this has something to do with the modern notion ofnjournalistic “objectivity,” with the idea that there isnsome way of reporting a story or providing cultural coveragenthat is “completely fair” and “unbiased,” and that this isndone by presenting “both sides.” The Times would neverncountenance the idea that it is and should admit tonreviewing — or reporting — from a certain point of view; it isnthe nation’s chronicler and, everywhere but the editorialnpage, cleanly nonpartisan.nNewspapers and magazines didn’t always assume thisnmantle of objectivity and restraint. “Treasure this maxim innyour thoughts for ever: A critic must be just as well asnclever,” wrote Sir Alexander Boswell, in an “Epistle to thenEdinburgh reviewers” he published in 1803. Byron wrotenhis “English Bards and Scotch Reviewers” in reaction to anpatronizing notice in the Edinburgh Review. He fought firenwith fire: “I too can hunt a Poetaster down” he says in hisnclosing lines. Coleridge was quite bitter about the treatmentnhe received. “For as long as there are readers to be delightednnnJANUARY 1989/21n