One-Minute Book Reviews

May 2, 2008

This Week’s Gusher Award for Achievement in Hyperbole in Book Reviewing Goes to …

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“Radish unrolls a rollicking yet reflective read that adds to her robust repertoire of beloved fiction. (Can a reviewer really use that many ‘r’s’ in one sentence?)”

Sandy Huseby in “Radish Raises the Roof,” a review of Kris Radish’s Searching for Paradise in Parker, PA (Bantam, 235 pp., $22), in the April 2008 issue of BookPage, a tabloid book-review section available free at many bookstores and libraries.

Comment by Jan:
Give Huseby credit. Unlike the previous winners of this award, she does seem to know that something is wrong with her sentence. But neither she nor the editor who approved the headline could fight off this case of the cutes. Even if the sentence lacked the manic alliteration, you might wonder: If this novel is “rollicking,” how does a book “rollick”? And by whom is Radish’s fiction “beloved”?

One-Minute Book Reviews gives out Gusher Awards every Friday except in weeks when critics show uncharacteristic restraint in their praise for books. It welcomes nominations from visitors.

© 2008 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.

April 4, 2008

Today’s Gusher Award for Achievement in Hyperbole Goes to …

Filed under: Gusher Awards — 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom @ 10:09 am
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“I literally couldn’t stop reading. I didn’t get up to eat breakfast. I didn’t take the dogs out. I just sat, curled up in my study chair, a glorious blue and gold Saturday morning blazing outside the window, and I read. I stopped a few times, forcing myself to go more slowly, wanting to savor the plot, but before long I was galloping along once more, flipping the pages in a blur …”

From a review of Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows in Entertainment Weekly ew.com/ew/article/0,,20044270_20044274_20047649,00.html.

Comment:

So the critic “literally” didn’t stop, but actually did?

© 2008 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.

www.janiceharayda.com

March 28, 2008

This Week’s Gusher Award for Achievement in Hyperbole Goes to …

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This week’s Gusher Award for Achievement in Hyperbole in Book Reviewing goes to …

“Anyone who’s ever worked at a restaurant will identify with Manny DeLeon, the protagonist of Stewart O’Nan’s short new novel, Last Night at the Lobster.”
Boulder Daily Camera, Nov. 9, 2007 www.dailycamera.com/news/2007/nov/09/lights-out-onan-finds-drama-pathos-in-chain/

Comment:

Yes, if you’ve ever thought you were Napoleon, you may identify with War and Peace. And if you can’t stop thinking about that white whale that chewed off your leg, you may identify with Moby-Dick. But these things are irrelevant to the quality of a book that it’s a critic’s job to judge. War and Peace and Moby-Dick are great books because you don’t have to be a candidate for a mental institution (or anything else) to appreciate them – not because you’ll appreciate them all the more if you are.

The U.S. also has more than two million waiters and waitresses, three million cooks and food preparation workers and a half million dishwashers, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Are we to believe all five million of those people will identify with a 35-year-old man even if, say, they’re women? Would the critic have assumed that “anyone” would identify with O’Nan’s protagonist if the character’s name had been Manuela instead of Manny?

© 2008 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.

March 7, 2008

This Week’s Gusher Award for Achievement in Hyperbole Goes to …

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And This Week’s Gusher Award for Achievement in Hyperbole Goes to …

A “startlingly tender memoir.”
— The March issue of O, the Oprah Magazine on Love and Consequences by Margaret Seltzer writing as Margaret B. Jones

And, as we learned this week, startlingly fake. This quote might have qualified even if Seltzer hadn’t admitted that she made up the book. Why should it “startling” that a book about gang life has tender scenes? Didn’t we see lots of those on The Sopranos?

www.nydailynews.com/entertainment/arts/2008/03/05/2008-03-05_oprahs_mag_gushed_over_memoir_of_fake_ga-1.html

Thanks to Larry McShane of the New York Daily News for an article on this one that has a quote from Amy Gross, editor-in-chief of O, acknowledging that the book “should have been classified as fiction.”

One-Minute Book Reviews is for people who like to read but dislike hype and review inflation. A new Gusher Award for Achievement in Hyperbole in Book Reviewing appears every Friday along with any other posts that appear that day.

© 2008 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.
www.janiceharayda.com

February 22, 2008

And This Week’s Gusher Award for Achievement in Hyperbole Goes to …

Filed under: Gusher Awards — 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom @ 9:47 am
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On Sunday (Feb. 17) the New York Times Book Review had a review of The Seven Days of Peter Crumb, billed as “a chronicle of the final week in a psychopath’s life by the British actor and writer Jonny Glynn.” The critic said:

“Reading it, I fought the urge to throw up. Needless to say, I was transfixed.”
www.nytimes.com/2008/02/17/books/review/Trussoni-t.html?ref=review

Comment:

Hyperbole in reviews often involves substituting overheated words like “transfixed” and “mesmerized” for calmer (but perhaps more accurate) ones like “fascinated” and “interested.’ “Transfixed” means “to render motionless” or “to fixate on something as though held by a spell.” You wonder if this critic was “transfixed” by anything but the need to find a vomit bag.

© 2008 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.
www.janiceharayda.com

February 15, 2008

Two, Four, Six, Eight / Now’s the Time to ‘Salivate’! This Week’s Gusher Award for Achievement in Hyperbole in Book Reviewing Goes to …

Filed under: Gusher Awards — 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom @ 11:09 am
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And this week’s Gusher Award for Achievement in Hyperbole goes too …

This book “will leave readers salivating for more.”
From a review of Special Topics in Calamity Physics in the New York Times Book Review, Aug. 13, 2006 www.nytimes.com/2006/08/13/books/review/13cover.html

Comment:

Even by the embarrassingly uncritical standards of contemporary literary criticism, the praise for Marisha Pessl’s Special Topics in Calamity Physics (Penguin, 528 pp., $15, paperback) went over the top. Many reviewers gushed not just about the novel but about the author’s youth and good looks as though they were writing for Hairdo magazine instead of major newspapers.

This week’s winner took the top honor because it double-faults. It’s unclear and presumptuous. What does “salivating” mean here? I may have defective salivary glands. But I can never quite figure out how to “salivate” for books – even by writers I love — as though I were, say, an unusually literary Weimaraner. If a critic does find him- or herself “salivating,” why not just say that (in the first-person) instead of projecting the response onto others (while hiding behind the third person)?

At least among critics, the bold prophecy of mass salivation for Special Topics in Calamity Physics seems to have gone unfulfilled. Ann Cummins wrote in the San Francisco Chronicle that Pessl’s novel rates “that lamest of grades, an ‘I’ for Incomplete.” Donna Rifkind said in the Washington Post that Pessl is a “vivacious writer,” but that “hunkering down for 514 pages of frantic literary exhibitionism turns into a weary business for the reader.” And Peter Dempsey of the Guardian faulted the book for “a page-by-page cascade of dreadful extended metaphors.” “Baldly put,” he said, “Pessl has a tin ear for prose.”

One-Minute Book Reviews welcomes nominations for the Gusher Award. 

© 2008 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.

February 8, 2008

And the First Gusher Award for Achievement in Hyperbole Goes to …

This is the first in a series of Friday posts in that will recognize out-of-control praise for books (in addition to any other posts that appear that day). At the end of this post you’ll find an explanation of why I am withholding the reviewers’ names in most posts, though I am providing a link to the review when one is available.

And the first Gusher Award for Achievement in Hyperbole in Book Reviewing goes to:

“Everyone in the world should read this book.”
From a review of Ishmael Beah’s A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier in the Washington Post, Feb. 23, 2007
www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/02/22/AR2007022201958.html

Comment:

The population of the world was more than 6 billion as of January 2008. And there’s no one among the 6 billion people who shouldn’t read this book? This praise would defy common sense even if the Australian hadn’t raised serious questions about the credibility of Beah’s story.

Why I am withholding the reviewers’ names in most of these posts:

These posts will generally withhold the reviewer’s name for two reasons. One is that the purpose of the Gusher Awards isn’t to say “X is a bad writer” but to say “This is bad reviewing.” X may be a good writer who had a bad day.

The second — and more important — reason is that at major publications the blame for hyperbole never lies with the reviewer alone. An editor (often more than one) has to approve the over-the-top praise. Here’s how the process might work at a newspaper or magazine with a substantial book-review section: An associate or deputy editor of the section assigns the review and edits it after it comes in. At least two other editors then read the review: the editor of the section and a copyeditor (whose job consists, in part, of making sure that the review conforms to the house style of the publication). The review might also be read by a) others on the staff of the section; b) the book-section editor’s boss (such as an assistant managing editor at a newspaper); and c) his or her boss, such as the editor-in-chief of the publication.

In other words, at least two or three editors — and as many as five or six — may have read an overheated review. But because it’s impossible to know exactly who approved the hyperbole, I’ll omit most names, though I may sometimes mention them for reasons I’ll explain on a case-by-case basis.

© 2008 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.

www.janiceharayda.com

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