Back at the beginning of December last year, Eoghan Harris, writing in the Sunday Independent about his choice of the best books of 2020, placed Kevin Myers’ ‘Burning Heresies‘ at the top of his list and had this to say about the memoir whose author once graced the pages of The Irish Times as the celebrated custodian of ‘An Irishman’s Diary’ column:
‘Kevin Myers’s Burning Heresies (Merrion Press, €19.95) is the saddest and funniest political book of (the) year. Under the bludgeonings of both chance and evil design – Myers has some malign foes – his sardonic eye is always searching for the comic barb to embed in his enemies. His memoir makes a perfect Christmas gift: his hilarious Bleak House portrait of The Irish Times in the 1960s is worthy of Dickens at his comic best.’
But what of The Old Lady? Not only had he made the Diary a must-read, even for those who found Myers’ increasingly right-wing politics hard to take, but he had twice risked his life for the Times to cover viciously dangerous civil wars in the Lebanon and in the Balkans.
To be sure, he had some harsh words to say and uncomfortable but perceptive insights to convey in ‘Heresies‘ about his former employers. But all the more reason, surely, for The Irish Times to acknowledge his book (and his contributions to the paper, both literary and life-threatening) by way of a review and by so doing display a generosity of spirit which the editors would doubtless complain was absent in Heresies. Worst of all, not to respond to criticism can sometimes be the next best thing to admitting its veracity.
Well, according to well informed sources, that was the original plan. Former Sunday Independent columnist Anne Harris – one time partner of Eoghan – was approached by Times‘ literary editor, Martin Doyle, last September and asked to review Heresies; she agreed and delivered the finished article in early October. Her piece was subbed and duly sent to the books page for setting. All was set for the review to appear in the next Saturday’s paper.
But then someone in the Times‘ management intervened, Harris’ review was pulled while Martin Doyle indicated to Harris that someone nearer the top of the totem pole, ‘a higher authority’ was the term used, had given the order.
Anne Harris is said to be anxious to discover whether her article has been ‘spiked’, a newspaper term dating back to the days of hot metal printing presses, which means discarded, and is ready to have a row if that’s what happened. She is said to be losing patience with the various excuses for her review not appearing.
We shall see.
You can read my review of ‘Burning Heresies’ here.