As you will have noticed, we’ve had something of a hiatus at The Melbourne Review of Books. In part this was to give everyone a break, in part, it was to take some time to think about things and reassess what it is that we are trying to do here.
I’m writing on behalf of The Melbourne Review of Books committee. We’ve recently become aware of an online discussion criticising the content of several of our reviews. First, we need to apologise for our delayed response. We are a volunteer committee, and were unaware of the conversation until recently. Second, we wish to apologise and take responsibility for the anger and frustration that we have caused.
There have been several criticisms of The Melbourne Review of Books, as provoked by a recent review of a new Australian young adult work, Clancy of the Undertow. In reading the discussion–in particular the comments on this site and the twitter threads associated with Margo Lanagan and Ellie Marney–we have identified three primary points:
- The MRB is indulging in the same literary elitism and ‘gate-keeperism’ as is frequently seen in literary review titles. In the specific instance that triggered the discussion, this relates to a generalised dismissal of young adult readers and writers.
- A lack in the quality of writing of MRB reviews, along with a lack of structural critique, and poor editing of the reviews. This represents a failure to meet standards expected of a publication that supposes itself to be providing thoughtful and articulate reviews.
- A lack of self-awareness and self-examination that has resulted in language that carries some clearly implicit gender biases.
We think these are valid criticisms. It is sometimes difficult to accept failure, but we think we have clearly failed in this regard. These criticisms run against the grain of our founding intention, which was to provide a place for thoughtful and considered conversations about the love of reading without prejudicing genres or readerships. From here, we need to reflect on how we have failed to meet our own expectations, as well as those of our readers and the broader community.
At this point we wanted to say thank you to everyone who has participated in the conversation. We are listening and we understand why people are upset. If you would like us to publish a response to these issues, we would be very happy to do so. Please feel free to contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thanks and regards,
On behalf of the MRB Committee.