Served up on a platter

I’ve always loathed Heather Mallick, once of the Globe and Mail Focus section, now plying her wares with and the CBC online. When she was still with the Globe I would begin each weekend composing a never-written letter to the editor in my head over breakfast, often bookended with a blood-boiling stop by Cross Country Checkup late Sunday afternoon. I’ve since discovered yoga.

So I got great pleasure out of the stylish pan of Mallick’s new book, Cake or Death, in last Saturday’s paper. It’s rare to see an actual all-out bad review in the Canadian literary world, but Christine Sismondo didn’t shy away from the task. Here’s the point where the review really gets going:

The rest of the book… I wouldn’t read to my dog.

Mallick thinks she is making fun of the world in a clever way. She’s never clever, and is so bigoted and unpleasant that her columns just can’t be amusing.

Sismondo zeroes in on the real issue with Mallick:

In fact, it’s a little terrifying to have somebody who claims to speak for the left be so utterly hateful to anybody who can’t afford to snub Marriott hotels for their declasse placement of the coffee machine, fly first class and shop at Holt Renfrew.

The best thing about the review? Its length. Sismondo could have stopped there — but I’m so glad she didn’t:

If ugliness and hypocrisy were the worst of the faults of this collection, it might be salvageable (at least for other rabid Canadians who thoughtlessly put down lower-middle and working-class Americans for sport).

And the final blow, a classic example of damning with faint praise:

But where Mallick deserves to be chastised for her pointless, rambling, boring essays, she deserves to be praised for her occasional clarity and self-awareness. For example, in one essay she admits to being an appalling combinatin of socialist and snob. Appalling, maybe. Snob, for sure. Two out of three ain’t bad.