By: Greg Mitchell
This Sunday, as planned, The New York Times will run a review of the new Jayson Blair book, “Burning Down My Masters’ House,” and it will be a full-fledged pan. In an interview with E&P this morning, Blair, who had received an advance copy, admitted that he expected as much.
“You are in a hard position writing for The New York Times and saying anything nice about me,” he said, but added: “A bad review might actually be an endorsement in this case.”
The Times’ review was written by Slate’s Jack Shafer and calls it a “sloppy, padded and dishonest work.”
According to a copy of the lengthy review obtained by E&P, Shafer writes: “His real enthusiasm seems to be barhopping, Scotch swilling, partying, cocaine scoring and snorting, joy riding the streets of New York City in the Times company car, and playing the toadying, push-and-shove high-risk game of office politics. … Jayson Blair is a confessed con man, and ‘Burning Down My Masters’ House’ is just another installment in his ongoing con.”
Asked to comment on the other early reviews, Blair told E&P: “I’ve read some of the reviews, and I understand why a lot of people are still upset. But I have been grateful for — I wouldn’t necessarily call them good reviews, but they had nice things to say about the book, like Nicholas Lemann in the New Yorker today. USA Today had a couple nice comments. The Washington Post Book World gave it a fair shake. I also haven’t been shying away from the reviews that have been more negative because I wanted to see what people had to say.
“People have a right to criticize me. Yes, I was a journalistic war criminal. That said — and this is not a “but” — but in my story I think I come clean.”
The transcript of the entire E&P interview with Blair, conducted by Greg Mitchell and Joe Strupp, will be posted here on Tuesday. It includes more than a dozen questions for Blair submitted by E&P readers.