The New York Times has picked up on the skirmish that developed at the National Book Critics Circle blog, Critical Mass, over nominating Bruce Bawer‘s WHILE EUROPE SLEPT for its criticism award. Patricia Cohen believes this argument mirrors a larger debate over a string of recently published books (by authors like Ian Buruma, Oriana Fallaci and Melanie Phillips) that ominously warn of a catastrophic culture clash between Europeans with traditional Western values and fundamentalist Muslims.
Cohen also gets more scoop on the announcement controversy, when Eliot Weinberger first slammed Bawer’s book for being “criticism as racism.” J. Peder Zane, the book review editor and books columnist at The News & Observer in Raleigh, N.C., was on the eight-member committee that nominated Bawer’s book He said it “was not a contentious selection.” Zane was furious at the way Weinberger used the nominating ceremony on Jan. 20 as a platform for his views. “He not only was completely unfair to Bruce Bawer,” he said in a telephone interview, “he’s also saying that those of us who put the book on the finalist list are racist or too stupid to know we’re racist.” And after booing the comments, Zane made his way into the crowd to give Weinberger what for. “He flicked his hand at me like I was a flea and walked away.”