Tuesday 9 September 2008


Following on from these posts: Adam LeBor reports on the odd last-minute decision by the London Review of Books not to publish a review article about King Hussein of Jordan by Bernard Avishai. According to Adam, Avishai's account of the king's support for a moderate, Western-leaning Palestinian state didn't 'fall within the current London literati bien-pensant view of Israel'.

Writing about the affair on his blog, Bernard Avishai describes how he 'jumped at the chance' to present a more complex view of the Israel-Palestine situation to British readers. On the Wednesday before the Friday of publication, Avishai was asked to finalise his bio. Then:

The next communication I received was from Mary Kay Wilmers, the editor-in-chief, a letter of apology with a cheque and the claim that the piece 'does not work - or at least not for us'. No explanation, no request for revisions. The article that replaced mine, I soon learned, was a last minute report about how Israeli were shooting up Gaza.

Those who have followed the LRB's metamorphosis into the literary house-journal of the anti-American, anti-Israel left won't be surprised - and will know how to decode that 'not for us'. And it seems Wilmers has form in censoring articles that don't follow the magazine's party line. Avishai links to a 2002 Telegraph article which describes her spiking of a piece by David Marquand that had the temerity to commend Tony Blair's response to the September 11 attacks. In her email to Marquand, Wilmers wrote: 'I can't square it with my conscience to praise so wholeheartedy Blair's conduct since September 11'. She had no qualms, though, about publishing Mary Beard's infamous suggestion that America 'had it coming'.

I know it will hardly have the magazine's editors quaking in their boots, but my subscription now hangs by a very slender thread.


Anonymous said...

My subscription too, Martin. However I read a good article today by Perry Anderson on Turkey so it will live a fortnight or two yet. Alan Bennett may turn up again as well. John Lanchester's stuff is good too. Most of the other contributors aren't up to much, and they do seem to write in the same style - very little that is individual about them.

Clive James used to be a regular at the LRB. I can't see his moderate liberal politics being acceptable to the house beliefs these days.

bob said...

I hear you Martin!

I agree with Rosie on Lanchester thoguh. His piece (early in the year? late last year?) "Cityphilia" remains the best explanation I have read of the credit crunch.

I'm keeping my subscription for a while, and in fact am meeting a friend in their lovely cafe later this week...