Book Blog – Likely Stories, from Booklist Online » Blog Archive » Okri v. Robertson, Rounds 1 & 2
Booklist Online

Booklist Online: More than 130,000 book reviews for librarians, book groups, and book lovers - from the trusted experts at the American Library Association

| | | | | | | | | | |
Book Blog - Likely Stories, by Keir Graff - Booklist Online

Likely Stories

A Booklist Blog
Keir Graff and editors from Booklist's adult and youth departments write candidly about books, book reviewing, and the publishing industry

« »

Monday, February 13, 2012 4:36 pm
Okri v. Robertson, Rounds 1 & 2
Posted by: Keir Graff

Always eager for a good literary dust-up, I read with interest the news that Booker Prize winner Ben Okri had responded to comments made last month by his editor, Robin Robertson. In Sameer Rahim’s January 23 Telegraph article, “The Mystery of Poetry Editing: From T. S. Eliot to John Burnside,” Robertson, a Scotsman, claimed (or “confessed”) that he had rewritten some of the Nigerian author’s “Lagos patois,” adding:

“I hope it doesn’t show that it was an Aberdonian who was doing it.”

Okri responded with a letter the Telegraph published on February 10, proving that literary feuds don’t move as quickly as text-messaged rapper beefs:

“I read with amusement your article in which Robin Robertson claims he ‘redid’ my dialogue in Stars of the New Curfew. While it is true that Mr Robertson is a fine editor, he also has a tendency to exaggerate his own importance. . . . He certainly did not and could not ‘redo’ my dialogue. . . . One has to feel a little sorry for Mr Robertson that he feels it necessary to claim the hard-won achievement of others.”

Oh, snap! Responding to Okri’s response (“Ben Okri ‘Disappointment’ at Editor He Claims Re-wrote His Work,” by Richard Alleyne), Robertson backpedaled slightly:

“I worked on the text in the way I always do, and made a number of suggestions for improvement. Most if not all of these changes were accepted, and the book was duly published. In this case—as always—the writer had final approval. I never alter any text—within the body of the book or on the cover—without the author’s consent.”

Sensing weakness—evidenced by two successive sentences with clauses set off by em-dashes—Okri turned up the heat even more:

“The idea that anyone could have rewritten the dialogue in any of my stories is monstrous, and indeed suspect. In any other area of life this would be a libelous statement which might warrant being taken to the courts. But people are inclined to shoot their mouths off and it is my solemn responsibility to set the record straight.”

As a feud, it needs work—it certainly has a long way to go before assuming the proportions of Lish v. Carver, but there is potential here, provided Robertson recognizes his responsibility to keep things going.


Leave a Reply



© 2014 Booklist Online. Powered by WordPress.
Quoted material should be attributed to:
Keir Graff, Likely Stories (Booklist Online).




HOME | | AWARDS | GREAT READS | BLOGS | NEWSLETTERS | WEBINARS | MY ALERTS | MY LISTS | MY PROFILE | HELP | SUBSCRIBE
BOOKLIST PUBLICATIONS
American Library Association