One-Minute Book Reviews

May 19, 2008

Backscratching in Our Time: Max Hastings and Michael Howard

Filed under: Backscratching in Our Time — 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom @ 8:30 pm
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Max Hastings on Michael Howard:
“In Britain, Professor Sir Michael Howard, OM, CH, MC, and Don Berry were kind enough to read and discuss this manuscript, as they did that of my earlier book Armageddon.”

Max Hastings in the acknowledgments for Retribution: The Battle for Japan, 1944–1945 (Knopf, 2008), published in the U.K. under the title Nemesis.

Michael Howard on Max Hastings:
“This is a book not only for military history buffs but for anyone who wants to understand what happened in half the world during one of the bloodiest periods of the blood-soaked 20th century.”

Michael Howard in “The Worst of Friends,” a review of the book for the Oct. 3, 2007, Spectator www.spectator.co.uk, England’s most influential magazine of opinion. Howard’s quote appears on the cover of the American edition of Retribution.

Comment:

I normally post examples of literary backscratching without comment. But these two require a short explanation. The National Book Critics Circle found in a recent survey of its members, “Ethics in Book Reviewing,” that 68.5 percent of respondents thought a book editor should not assign a book to someone mentioned in the acknowledgments
bookcriticscircle.blogspot.com/2007/12/ethics-in-book-reviewing-survey-results.html.

The ethics of book reviewing differ in Britain, where the culture of full disclosure does not exist to the degree that it does in America. The pool of eligible reviewers is smaller in the U.K. and, without a more flexible standard, editors might have trouble finding qualified reviewers. And a potential conflict-of-interest does not always result in a weak review. Michael Howard’s review for the Spectator is more fluent, authoritative and interesting than reviews by others in the New York Times and Wall Street Journal. You may wonder if Howard had reservations about Retribution that he withheld. But you still learn more about the book from his comments than from most – if not all – of the American reviews.

© 2008 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.

2 Comments »

  1. I’m curious, what would make one a ‘qualified reviewer’?

    Comment by Edi — May 19, 2008 @ 9:12 pm | Reply

  2. Edi: “Qualified reviewer” can mean different things to different editors. The New York Times, for example, seems strongly to favor reviewers who have expertise in the subject area covered by the book (such as a respected scholar for an academic book or a well-established fiction writer for a first novel).

    But some editors place less emphasis on expertise in a subject area than on having a strong and interesting voice and knowing how to review books (that is, knowing the difference between a good review and a “book report”). During my years as a book editor, I looked for a combination of all of those things — expertise, an interesting voice and a knowledge of how to review books. \

    Thanks for your question. I’m sure many others are wondering about that, too.
    Jan

    Comment by 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom — May 19, 2008 @ 10:00 pm | Reply


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