"I’m also in the midst of… my annual report to the university on what I’ve been publishing – the strange answer is nothing. You see, nothing counts but “refereed” material. My three books of the last two years, and my five coming up in the press, these count for nothing, and scads of essays and reviews – scrap paper. Periodically I’m cautioned by the Dean for underachievement."
–Guy Davenport to Nicholas Kilmer, 16 November 1980
True Stories from the Annals of Blind Refereeing
Part I: So I got a request from Leading Journal in my Field the other day to serve as a referee for an essay on Major Semi-Canonical Poet. Okay, thought I, I am without doubt one of the 2 or 3 "authorities" on M. S-C. P., & I make an effort at keeping up with the criticism, so I'll do it. I read Critic X's paper, & on a 1st read found it – well – excellent. But I was a trifle peeved that Critic X managed to write 30-odd pages on M. S-C. P., including lots of biographical references, without once citing my work. Grrrr. 2 possibilities suggest themselves: Critic X doesn't like me, for whatever reason; or Critic X doesn't like my work. I don't know which makes me sadder, but I suppose I'll go ahead & recommend publication.
Part II: Hard on the heels of that request, Preeminent Journal Not Just in My Field But in the Whole Bloody Discipline asks me to be the tie-breaking blind referee for Critic Y's essay on Major Canonized Poet & Semi-Major Semi-Canonized Composer. These folks are efficient: not merely do they send the request, but they attach the essay, the readers' guidelines, & the 2 previous reports (not, by the way, anonymously – so I know who writ 'em). Reader B says "let's get Critic Y to rewrite & reconsider; there's good stuff here." Reader A rejects the essay outright. Principal reason? Critic Y has failed to take account of Reader A's own essay on M. C. P. & S-M. S-C. C., included oh-so-recently in a collection of essays published by a UK press very few of whose books, I suspect, make it across the Atlantic.
Discuss, drawing yr own conclusions.
Hey, we've finally got the DSL & the wifi set up here on Fire Island, & I feel once again as tho I'm plugged into the whole buzzing world of people vicariously living their lives online. To hell with the beach, the bay, & the boardwalks! I'm blogging again!