dustup between Mark Danner and George Packer over the latter's mostly negative review of Danner's new book, Stripping Bare the Body, in the New York Times Book Review. Danner responded to Packer with a 1400-word rebuttal, or rather a 1400-word critique of Packer's review and of the Times for assigning it to him in the first place. (Packer than riposted in a shorter answer also published in the TBR.)
I admire both writers' journalism, and not having read Danner's book, I won't try to pick sides in the dispute. I merely want to point out how lucky Danner is to have been given so many column inches to punch back at a review he didn't like! Usually trying to rebut bad reviews is a losing game. Few publications can, or care to, allot much space to an author with a chip on his shoulder (justified or not) about a poor review. As you can imagine, the wronged author typically has a lot to say about what was wrong with his review--then he or she finds his epic fulmination edited down to a 200-word bleat. Making it worse, the reviewing organ gives the original reviewer space for a re-rebuttal that is often longer than the author's critique.
This is one reason why I often suggest to authors that they ignore bad reviews. It's better to be philosophical and figure that any publicity is good publicity. (I have come to believe this is usually true, with some ghastly exceptions.) But even if you believe that your book has been misrepresented and the record must be set straight, the result of the tit-for-tat-for-tit exchange rarely comports with your sense of justice.
My advice to authors is to take the approach of one notoriously controversial writer, who--at least according to literary legend--had a pre-printed postcard that he used to reply to readers who wrote in to excoriate him for a some column or article. It read, entirely, as follows:
Dear Sir or Madam,
You may be right.
Sincerely, H. L. Mencken.