A reviewer who can forego the delicate sensibilities of others while rendering honest opinions and often providing constructive criticism always garners my respect. I have long enjoyed the book reviews of Bob Gutowski, and since I recently wrote of Karen Chaney, I thought I’d shine a little more light on it. You can go to Amazon’s website with a Click here or just read the posts below:
Careless or clueless?,
June 13, 2006
“The first error is on the copyright page, which states that the cover photo, the Newport, R.I. vacation shot of Lizzie taken in 1893, was taken prior to the murders – which took place in 1892! The author later identifies a three-quarter portrait of Lizzie as a “profile” view. Again and again, Ms. Chaney does not take the time that Rick Geary, for one, does (in his graphic novel of the case) to state that many of the events of the murder morning are in dispute. Rather, she forges ahead, proclaiming without any doubt that Lizzie “walked downstairs dressed in a blue Bengalese (sic – the word is “Bengaline”) silk skirt and blouse” and that “Abby told Lizzie that she had gotten a note from a sick friend that morning and was going out to visit her.” This last is, of course, one of the most questioned and speculated-upon issues of the case.
This book is, unfortunately, as inventive as Victoria Lincoln’s well-written but ultimately semi-fictional epic, A PRIVATE DISGRACE. One photo caption reads, “Lizzie as a young woman. She loved the theater, but rejected it for a higher calling to the church, primarily because she wanted to feel useful and accepted.” And your references, Ms. Chaney? In thirty-five years of researching the case I have never read anywhere that the young Miss Borden was smitten with the theater. It’s a romantic notion, and it bookends nicely with the actual older Lizzie’s embrace of the stage, but it seem entirely to be an invention on the author’s part. And where, pray tell, are Lizzie’s motives so definitely set down for all to see? Perhaps the book ought to be titled LIZZIE BORDEN, AS I IMAGINE HER.”
Charles H. Levenson
“Gee,but in 31 years of”researching”this case I NEVER ONCE SAW ANY REFERENCE TO ANYTHING THAT YOU HAVE PUBLISHED ON THIS MATTER,other than this pansey review..For a know-it-all you sure don’t do much more than make critical statements…LET ME KNOW WHEN YOU GET SOMETHING IN PRINT,ONE WAY OR THE OTHER,ABOUT LIZZIE,SO THAT Ms.CHANEY AND THE OTHERS WHO HAVE ENJOYED HER BOOK CAN TAKE A WELL-DESERVED WHACK AT YOUR”RESEARCH”AND CONCLUSIONS…but,of course,for those such as yourself ,THIS REVIEW WILL NO DOUBT BE THE ENTIRE OUTPUTdon’t do much more than make critical statements…LET ME KNOW WHEN YOU GET SOMETHING IN PRINT,ONE WAY OR THE OTHER,ABOUT LIZZIE,SO THAT Ms.CHANEY AND THE OTHERS WHO HAVE ENJOYED HER BOOK CAN TAKE A WELL-DESERVED WHACK AT YOUR”RESEARCH”AND CONCLUSIONS…but,of course,for those such as yourself ,THIS REVIEW WILL NO DOUBT BE THE ENTIRE OUTPUT OF YOUR”RESEARCH” INTO THE MATTER OF LIZZIE BORDEN,NOW WON’T IT? ON-LINE CRITICISM BY BUNGLERS IS A GROWTH-INDUSTRY,OPEN TO ALL REGARDLESS OF QUALIFICATIONS,SO YOU FIT RIGHT IN…..Just in case you get the urge to take a whack at me,I am a regular contributor to several ocean county new jersey newspapers and was both a writer and contributing editor for Kastlemusick magazine…What,then are your credentials, other than self-importantance?”
“I think I know of Robert J. Gutowski, the person who wrote that review and who posts on a Lizzie Borden forum. I can tell you he is not only extremely well informed on Lizzie Borden and this enduring murder case, but he is far more knowledgeable than Karen Chaney on the subject. I, too, have read her book. Suffice to say my endeavor to highlight in yellow all her errors was an incomplete effort. Too soon my highlighter went dry from all the citations of inaccuracies. I would be less harsh if she were not a Harvard professor, previously published. One should know better. One should at least know that when writing a book on a topic that attracts an enlightened audience one should get all their facts straight. Bordenia experts can spot the errors at 20 paces. Or at least longer than the life span of a yellow highlighter. I might add that if Karen was under constraints to finish quickly due to time-certain publishing dates relative to this “New England Remembers” series, she should have insisted with the publisher for more time or foregone the exercise. Instead, the unfortunate result ill serves the author, the publisher, and the reading public. I can state this unequivocably because I had a personal experience with another Lizzie book that was “rushed to publish” and the subsequent editing errors were abysmal. However, no errors of editing are at issue here – only the factual content. Tsk, tsk, Ms. Chaney, for tis greater the crime.”