Letters to the Editor

One week in January I wrote fierce Letters to the Editor of two very different newspapers. My targets were on both ends of the political spectrum: Conrad Black and Rick Salutin. Surely this establishes some kind of record.

In the National Post on Saturday, January 21, Conrad Black assailed a book that I recently published under my imprint: Trudeau Transformed, by Max and Monique Nemni. He made the mistake of mentioning that he had not actually read the second volume of the series he dismissed as “hagiographies” and was relying on the excerpts that he had read.

My letter, which the National Post featured prominently, pointed out that he had broken “the basic law for book reviewers, that it is impossible to review fairly and honestly a book that you have not read.” The letter went on with equal vigour.

In his next column, on Saturday, January 28, Conrad Black began, “I regret offending my cordial acquaintance Douglas Gibson. And I salute him for coming to the defence of his authors, Max and Monique Nemni, biographers of Pierre Trudeau. I think I can set his mind at ease on some points.”

What follows strikes me as coming as close to an apology as Mr. Black can manage. Watch this space to see if he goes on to read and review the disputed book.

By way of contrast, in his Friday, January 21, column in the Toronto Star, Rick Salutin took aim at the respect shown for storytelling skills. His provocative headline “Enough with the Storytelling” was enough to rouse me, the author of a book entitled Stories About Storytellers, to protest in print. In my response, I praised the central role of storytelling, not only in our fiction, but in our non-fiction writers, too, including our politicians. I suggested that history shows that success – in elections, in courtrooms, in contract bids, and in book sales – goes to the person who tells the best story.

I would even go so far as to say that storytelling, like the opposable thumb, is a basic human characteristic. And stories, which allow us to get inside the heads and hearts of other people, are perhaps the original “social media.”

— Douglas Gibson


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