Wednesday, December 09, 2009
Whither The Withering Book Review?
As I ponder the growing pile of books fated to remain half-read by yours truly, I sometimes consider enumerating a few "reader's rules," say, or a list of tropes that, when encountered, will immediately move me to abandon a writer's work. I'd rather avoid such self-indulgence, and here is just one reason why: writers who encounter these rippers actually suffer, sometimes terribly. And where's the good in that?
I am also noticing that I'm growing less interested in the opinions of critics on a broadsheet payroll, even one that's as auspicious as the NYTBR. There is a sweaty, begrudging whiff of "I'm doing the trenchwork, here" that applies especially to fiction reviewing (witness the review in question), and makes the entire enterprise suspect.
It's been a few years since a newspaper persuaded me to buy a book, but magazines* are another story. One example: Sam Anderson's praise for The Brief Wondrous Life Of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz sent me straight to Amazon, for a book I would otherwise have given a pass.
If disinterest takes over said Brief Wondrous Life, I won't admit it here -- but I will over at goodreads. There is something about being a solo voice among the mob that frees up a little of my critical phlegm. Goodreads is also where I give my raves their first draft. If you're curious, look me up (I'm "whiskyprajer" -- natch) or drop me an e-mail.
*Although Paste's list is enough to induce the hangover of the decade.
Post-Script: oops! Forgot the link to Anderson's intriguing survey of Lit-Fic in the Aughts.