book/daddy won't stand for these insults. He'll sit, instead

book/daddy has long been familiar with many of the classic descriptions of his job -- "A critic is someone who enters the battlefield after the war is over and shoots the wounded" (the great Murray Kempton), a reviewer "is pouring his immortal spirit down the drain, half a pint at a time" (George Orwell) -- but here are some new ones (new to me):

"Book reviewing is the slum of American letters" -- George Davenport.

"The absolute dregs .... writing for the books pages. Why? Because it's the lowest form of journalism there is. And the lowest form of that is reviewing fiction" -- Amanda Craig.

"Most of the thousands of poets were bad, most of the thousands of critics were bad, and they loved each other" -- Randall Jarrell.

These bleak pearls of wisdom are quoted in Gail Pool's new book, Faint Praise: The Plight of Book Reviewing in America, which I intend to review here. Sometime. When I've recovered.

Until then, it's just cheering me up no end. The prime depressive function, it seems, of all my reading these days.

July 11, 2007 2:15 PM | | Comments (2)



I'll buy that book reviewers miss the boat sometimes, and that can be very frustrating for an author. You have to figure -- Moby Dick and Leaves of Grass turned out to be pretty important books, despite all the critics.

Too many critics pan something that doesn't seem familiar to them (i.e. AN Wilson) for no other reason than that it is different. So innovators begin to really hate reviewers. But alot of the gripers are just medicore writers too.

Those comments must come from a time when there were fewer new titles and one had not only the time, but also the money to keep up with all of them.

These days, I have neither, and I rely on reviews, formal and less so, to help decide what books I can spend time (one hopes) enjoying.

Of course, there are hacks in all professions -- those who are mean spirited or feel they must cater to the worst of human nature in order to keep readership -- but there really is a lot of drek out there, and I appreciate being warned before spending my cash!

Thank you.


Best of the Vault


Pat Barker, Frankenstein, Cass Sunstein on the internet, Samuel Johnson, Thrillers, Denis Johnson, Alan Furst, Caryl Phillips, Richard Flanagan, George Saunders, Michael Harvey, Larry McMurtry, Harry Potter and more ...


Big D between the sheets -- Dallas in fiction


Reviewing the state of reviewing


9/11 as a novel: Why?


How can critics say the things they do? And why does anyone pay attention? It's the issue of authority.

The disappearing book pages:  

Papers are cutting book coverage for little reason

Thrillers and Lists:  

Noir favorites, who makes the cut and why



About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by book/daddy published on July 11, 2007 2:15 PM.

Much the most sensible discussion was the previous entry in this blog.

ESSAY: is the next entry in this blog.

Find recent content on the main index or look in the archives to find all content.

Creative Commons License
This weblog is licensed under a Creative Commons License.