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The Big Black Book: The Essential Views of Conrad and Barbara Amiel Black
By Maude Barlow and James Winter
Stoddart Publishing, 1998
240 pages, paperback
ISBN: 0773759042

Overview

This book is a collection and analysis of many of the statements made by Conrad Black and Barbara Amiel throughout their very public lives and careers. It deals primarily with their controversial dislike of journalists, feminists, liberals, public broadcasting and several other theories and institutions.

Barlow and Winter, each well known Canadian activists in their own right, don't claim to be non-partisan, especially in their analyses of the couple's views. They do, however, attempt to provide as much "evidence" as they can to support some indisputable facts; both Lord and Lady Black have been very open about their views. There is no shortage of written examples, including several written by the Blacks themselves, that fortify Barlow and Winter's arguments, and the book is peppered with quotes that support their claims. These include written transcripts of comments the Blacks made orally, snippets of articles they wrote, and interviews with some of the people who knew and worked with them.

That said, it's clear that the purpose of this book is to get readers to question the views of the couple that, for some time, held the Canadian media in a headlock.

Review

The Big Black Book goes into immense detail about the actions and the opinions of Lord and Lady Black. It makes no attempt to sympathize with them, but it also makes no attempt to come off as a completely unbiased analysis of their views and opinions. Barlow and Winter don't agree with the majority of these views; that's a given. They don't, however, attempt to explicitly mislead their readers into believing that they are providing them with the only definitive angle on the issue.

The book is by no means pro-Black but it is also not resolutely anti-Black. Granted, the authors are trying to shed light on some of the couple's more "controversial" views (they've both written that feminism and socialism are "morally bankrupt", and that "journalism is a wretched profession").

Most importantly, at no point do Barlow and Winter condemn either Lord or Lady Black, which adds a heightened sense of credibility to the book. Despite this, some readers might be concerned that the Blacks don't have any opportunity (within this book) to defend themselves. As Barlow once pointed out in an interview, however, at the time this book was published Conrad Black exerted an immense amount of control over more than half of Canada's daily newspapers, and readers across the country were inundated with the views of both Black and his wife (whom he kept on his payroll). The authors seemed to intend this book as a counter-argument to what was, at the time, a massive media empire.

This book is an interesting read, but it's not an easy read

Availability

This book is no longer in stock at most major bookstores and on online retail sites. I managed to find a copy at my university's library, though I've heard it can be easily found at used bookstores. Though it's not readily available for purchase, it's worth a read if you can find it. It sells in the neighbourhood of $15 to $25 (CAD).
Submitted for The Bookworm Turns: An Everything Literary Quest

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