Hathos to you, too, bub

Over his many years as a critic, book/daddy has repeatedly heard two criticisms against him -- and against just about any practicing critic: You show off by using too many fancy words and you're a snob. Oh yes, and a third: You critics are always giving away the endings.

The latter charge is maddening and a hopeless one to respond to. My mother-in-law will ask me about a movie I've seen, and I'll start to describe it -- "It's about this guy, the world has ended and he's the only one left alive, or so he thinks and" -- just about then is when she's starts frantically waving her hands telling me I've already told her too much, while my wife is loudly shushing me, too. All that such people really want to hear is the answer to: "Should I see it (or read it)?" I had a friend who wouldn't even read the jacket copy of books before he finished them. How he ever decided to read anything was a mystery to me.

Yes, I've occasionally come across a review that irritated me by giving away too much, but in my experience, it's a relatively rare crime. Perhaps there are repeat offenders out there who seem to be pissing off the entire population, judging from the near-religious wrath this felony generates.

The second charge (snobbery) is levelled at just about anyone who passes judgment on works of art, so I simply shrug it off -- mostly, it means, we don't have the same taste.

But the first charge always puzzled me because at The Dallas Morning News, the editors and copy editors worked diligently to plane down our prose. The habit dies hard: In all that I've written in this post so far, "diligently" is about as difficult as it gets. When book/daddy did throw in a word that I suspected the editors would yelp about, a word I really felt was necessary, I would argue: Don't we want our readers to be better readers? To learn something? To fucking get up and look up the damned thing? I always did as a kid -- and often still do.

So for four years, that's what James Meek, author of the terrific novelThe People's Act of Love, did: looked up every word he came across that he didn't know.

December 16, 2007 5:27 PM |



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 December 16, 2007 5:27 PM.

Do Ants Have Arseholes? was the previous entry in this blog.

Losing one's marbles: It's a Monday 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.