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A Book Review Review

Thursday, July 21, 2005
    They Know We Exist!

    Just the other day I was saying on Beatrice that the literary skirmishes in the war between old media and the blogosphere were more genteel than the other debates. The Reading Experience offers a stellar example, as James Wood drops by to take issue with Dan Green's criticisms of his take on Cormac McCarthy, and though the debate itself gets caustic as Green digs in his heels, the overall tone leans towards the respectful. Even the chiding turns complimentary: "Your blog is not as obscure as you imagine; and I read you because I take seriously your articulate defence of the postmodern position."
    posted by ron @ Thursday, July 21, 2005 | Permanent link

Monday, July 18, 2005
    Irving Envy

    What's behind the contrast in this week's NYTBR between the fawning cover placement (not to mention what may be the only flattering André Carrilho caricature in Review history) of John Irving's latest, which even Paul Gray tacitly admits after several long paragraphs of plot summary isn't very good, with the half-page or so, whittling away the ad and the headshot, of commentary on Kathryn Harrison's Envy?

    While Emily Nussbaum isn't completely won over by Envy, it's clear that she considers it a substantial book and Harrison a significant contemporary writer. So why is Harrison's effort given short shrift in comparison to Irving's, when the paper's own critics seem to believe she's better at handling psychological and sexual themes than he is? I'd like to be charitable and think it's because Harrison's book is just one-third as long as Irving's, or that somebody thought it might be unseemly to lavish too much attention on a writer who's also a regular (and regularly good) NYTBR contributor. Likewise, I can recognize Nussbaum's admirable concision as opposed to Gray's rambling. But maybe it's that being an eminence grise still trumps being a "wonderful writer," enabling a male author to be considered endearing when his protagonist goes through round after round of pre-adolescent sexual activity, while a woman author spends a decade contending with opprobrium for dealing with "narcissism, family violation, sexual taboo and physical suffering" in her fiction and nonfiction. That's Nussbaum's catalog of Harrison's themes, anyway, but it's kinda surprising how well it holds up when juxtaposed with many of Irving's novels, no?

    posted by ron @ Monday, July 18, 2005 | Permanent link


BEATRIX archives

Ron Hogan is a freelance writer who reviews books and interviews writers for publications such as Publishers Weekly. He is also the author of an illustrated overview of American films from the 1970s called The Stewardess Is Flying the Plane, due out from Bulfinch Press in November 2005.

How did this season's hot books generate their heat? And why do other novels surrounded by buzz turn into duds? Beatrix, a subset of my longrunning literary blog Beatrice.com, openly speculated about these questions in the form of "book review reviews" from January to August of 2005.

Beatrice; or, Where It All Began
I first launched Beatrice.com in 1995 as a venue for author interviews. In late 2003, I switched over to a daily blog of news and commentary about books and authors. What you see here now is essentially one side of that blog's original makeup, the side that dealt with how books were received by the literary culture. The full blog contains not only these "book review reviews," but news items about various writers and original insights from the authors themselves in the form of interviews, blog excerpts, and guest articles.


Write Me:

(syndicate this AJblog)


I'll Show You Mine
One of my regular gigs is as a freelance reviewer for Publishers Weekly. Although some people have a problem with anonymous reviews in PW, I'm all for them in general principle (though I think embargoes are a crock, but that's a different story)...anyway, I'd like to give any reveiwers who might be reading this the same opportunity to critique me, so I'll look into whether it's kosher for me to pull back the curtain. And I'll try to land some assignments with bylines, too. (In fact, if you're reading this, and you can assign book reviews...)


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A Sampling of Book Blogs

Book Angst 101
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  Pixel Points
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    Terry Teachout on the arts in
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    business of Arts & Culture
  blog riley  
    rock culture approximately
  Straight Up |
    Jan Herman - Arts, Media &
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    Tobi Tobias on dance et al...
  Serious Popcorn
    Martha Bayles on Film...

    Drew McManus on orchestra


    Greg Sandow on the future of
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    Doug Ramsey on Jazz
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Visual Arts
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AJBlog Heaven
    A Book Review review
  Critical Conversation II
    Classical Music Critics
    on the future of music
  Tommy T
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  Midori in Asia
    Conversations from the road
    June 22-July 3, 2005

  A better case for the Arts?
    A public conversation
  Critical Conversation
    Classical Music Critics on the 
    Future of Music
  Sticks & Stones
    James S. Russell on
   In Media Res
    Bob Goldfarb on Media
    Sam Bergman on tour with 
   the Minnesota Orchestra

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