The New York Times has retracted disputed facts published in a review of author Mario Vargas Llosa’s “Notes on the Death of Culture.”
Book critic Joshua Cohen called Vargas Llosa a “grumpy old novelist” and his book a “cranky, hasty manifesto” in his largely negative review in which he finishes by calling Peru’s most famous writer a hypocrite.
Vargas Llosa response to the review did not take issue with Cohen’s opinion of the book. It only disputed the key facts Cohen used to build his case for hypocrisy.
“According to the review, a few days before the publication of my book I announced my new relationship with Miss Isabel Preysler on my ‘official Twitter account’ and sold photos as well as the ‘exclusive’ story to Hola! magazine in Spain for 850,000 euros,” Vargas Llosa wrote in a letter to the editor. “I have never had a Twitter account, and I have never posted and never will post anything on any Twitter account. I have never sold a photo or story to Hola! magazine or any other outlet in connection with any relationship or personal matter.”
“I am flabbergasted to learn that this kind of gossip can work its way into a respectable publication such as the Book Review,” Vargas Llosa ends his letter.
The New York Times immediately published a retraction of the allegation that Vargas Llosa sold the story of his relationship with Isabel Preysler to the Spanish tabloid as well as any mention of Twitter.
“In reviewing this complaint, editors determined that the reviewer had based his account of these matters mostly on information from an article about Vargas Llosa in The Daily Mail, but neither the reviewer nor editors independently verified those statements,” reads the editor’s retraction. “Using such information is at odds with The Times’s journalistic standards, and it should not have been included in the review.”
The New York Times critic had used information from British tabloid The Daily Mail and an unverified Twitter account using the name of Mario Vargas Llosa. So while the negative review stands, Vargas Llosa won a small victory in disciplining a junior journalist.
Letters: Mario Vargas Llosa Responds (New York Times)
NOTES ON THE DEATH OF CULTURE (New York Times)