Posted on May 12, 2022 at 10:52 AM by Sadye Scott-Hainchek

We're betraying our age here ... but a recent New York Times story has us thinking of Weird Al's "Amish Paradise."

Specifically, we wonder anyone in a book-review brouhaha has unveiled the threat from that song: "I might have to get medieval on your heinie."

But enough '90s. Here's the story.

The Los Angeles Review of Books commissioned literary scholar Mary Rambaran-Olm to write a review of the book The Bright Ages: A New History of Medieval Europe by Matthew Gabriele and David Perry.

Rambaran-Olm had a few pieces of praise for the book, but mostly criticisms.

And ultimately, the LARB decided not to publish it.

Why? Well, that depends on who you ask.

Rambaran-Olm accused editors of killing the piece because of their friendship with the authors; the publication, in turn, has said they tried — but failed — to resolve some issues they had with the review with the author.

At any rate, the LARB recently posted a different review of the book, prompting Rambaran-Olm to take to Twitter.

And that's where things really got ugly.

The New York Times walks us through the drama surrounding this review of The Bright Ages, from deleted tweets to apologies to very cautious and neutral comments from the book in question's authors.

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Categories: Today in Books

Banditqueen, thank you for your insightful and thoughtful comment! I agree wholeheartedly that no matter how strongly one disagrees with Dr. Rambaran-Olm, threats and harassment are completely inappropriate. And you are right that it has inspired a lot of us, beyond the scholarly world, to rethink how we talk about that era. Here's hoping that the scholarly conversation, not the vitriol, is the legacy of this incident.
Sadye at Fussy | 5/19/22 at 7:54 AM
Ridiculous as this row may seem, how we study and describe Early Medieval history is important. For one thing there isn't a global Middle Ages, different cultures developed at different paces and their cultures were often more advanced. There were influences and connections but the term simply is incorrect beyond Europe. There is also much debate as to when this period begins, at the end of the Roman Empire, during the transition or later, in the 700s for example. The Bright Ages has much to recommend it and reminds us, that despite many dark times, these people also shone in terms of craft, beauty, imagination, art, culture, the rebirth of learning etc. There are also genuine criticisms one might have with this or any book covering such a wide and varied time period and geographical area. However, I feel that the row on social media has gone much too far and I would condemn the attacks and abuse thrown at Dr Mary Rambaran-Olm. I can't comment on why her professional review was pulled, although I have seen it, read the thread in detail and seen the counter arguments, because that is something for the publishers. I can understand why Dr Rambaran-Olm is angry but time constraints also played a part here. Refusals to edit a review are always going to lead to its withdrawal in these circumstances. There have been several professional reviews since then. The one good thing to come out of this is that Medieval history and themes are being discussed on social media, although most people actually don't know what they are talking about and are merely backing one party, regardless of the facts, which at least means a genuine debate has started. Hopefully something positive will result.
Banditqueen | 5/18/22 at 11:30 PM
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