One-Minute Book Reviews

March 15, 2012

Can Books Be ‘Compelling’? Quote of the Day From Robert Silvers

Filed under: Quotes of the Day — 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom @ 12:14 am
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Critics have an armada of fuzzy words that they deploy when they want to avoid taking a stand on books. Editors, agents and others translated some of the reviewers’ evasions in my posts 40 Publishing Buzzwords, Clichés and Euphemisms Decoded, More Publishing Buzzwords Decoded and 23 British Publishing Euphemisms Decoded. The critic Daniel Mendelsohn mentioned another while introducing lifetime-achievement award winner Robert Silvers, editor of the New York Review of Books, at the 2011 National Book Critics Circle Awards ceremony. Mendelsohn said that Silvers asked when a critic described a book as “compelling”:

“Compelling? Compelled to do what?”

You watch Mendelsohn’s introduction to Silvers in a video of the NBCC ceremony.

August 21, 2011

40 Publishing Buzzwords, Clichés and Euphemisms Decoded

Filed under: Humor,News — 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom @ 1:36 am
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Ever wonder what editors, publishers and critics mean when they describe books as “lyrical,” “provocative” or “ripped from the headlines”? Let industry veterans explain it to you. I asked experts on Twitter to decode common publishing terms and attach the hashtag #pubcode. Here are some of their answers:

“absorbing”: “makes a great coaster” @DonLinn Don Linn, publishing consultant

“accessible”: “not too many big words” @MarkKohut Mark Kohut, writer and consultant

“acclaimed”: “poorly selling” @BloomsburyPress Peter Ginna, publisher, Bloomsbury Press

breakout book”: “Hail Mary pass” @BookFlack Larry Hughes, associate director of publicity, the Free Press at Simon & Schuster

brilliantly defies categorization”: “even the author has no clue what he’s turned in” @james_meader James Meader, publicity director of Picador USA

“captures the times we live in”: “captures the times we were living in two years ago” @mathitak Mark Athitakis, critic

“classroom-friendly”: “kids won’t read it unless they have to” @LindaWonder, Linda White, book promoter at Wonder Communications

“continues in the proud tradition of J.R.R. Tolkien”: “this book has a dwarf in it” @jasonpinter Jason Pinter, author of the Zeke Bartholomew series for young readers

“definitive”: “could have used an editor” @kalenski, “Book Babe Extraordinaire”

“an eBook original”: “still no proofreading and bad formatting” @mikecane Mike Cane, writer and digital book advocate

“edgy”: “contains no adult voices of reason” @wmpreston William Preston, English teacher

“epic”: “very long” @sheilaoflanagan Sheila O’Flanagan, novelist (Stand by Me)

“erotic”: “porn” @BloomsburyPress Peter Ginna, publisher, Bloomsbury Press

“ethnic literature”: “stuff written by nonwhite people” @elprofe316 Rich Villar, executive director of Acentos

“frothy romp”: “funny book by lady” “Funny = funny book by a man” @jenniferweiner Jennifer Weiner, novelist (Then Came You) and television producer (State of Georgia)

“gripping”: “I turned the pages fast but didn’t read them” @sarahw Sarah Weinman, news editor of Publishers Marketplace

“gritty street tale”: “Black author from the hood. Run.” @DuchessCadbury, graduate student in literature

“I’ve been a fan of Author X for a long time”: “I slept with them regrettably, in MFA school.” @Weegee Kevin Smokler, vice-president of marketing for Byliner.

“lapidary prose”: “I did not know what half of these words meant” @jenniferweiner Jennifer Weiner, novelist (Then Came You) and television producer (State of Georgia)

“literary”: “plotless” @MarkKohut Mark Kohut, writer and consultant

“long-awaited”: “late” @janiceharayda Jan Harayda, novelist and editor of One-Minute Book Reviews

“luminous” or “lyrical”: “not much happens” @BloomsburyPress Peter Ginna, publisher, Bloomsbury Press

“magisterial”: “long” @BloomsburyPress Peter Ginna, publisher, Bloomsbury Press

“meticulously researched”: “overloaded with footnotes” @BookFlack Larry Hughes, associate director of publicity, the Free Press at Simon & Schuster

“memoir”: “nonfiction until proven otherwise” @BookFlack Larry Hughes, associate director of publicity, the Free Press at Simon & Schuster

“the next Elmore Leonard”: “This book has criminals or Detroit or maybe Florida in it” @bryonq Bryon Quertermous, fiction writer

novella”: “short story with large font” @BookFlack Larry Hughes, associate director of publicity, the Free Press at Simon & Schuster

“a real tear-jerker”: “writing so bad it makes you cry” @DrewSGoodman Drew Goodman, writer and social media analyst

“ripped from the headlines”: “no original plot line” @jdeval Jacqueline Deval, author (Publicize Your Book!) and book publicist

“rollicking”: “chaotic” @BloomsburyPress Peter Ginna, publisher, Bloomsbury Press

“sensual”: “soft porn” @BloomsburyPress Peter Ginna, publisher, Bloomsbury Press

“stunning”: “major character dies” @mathitak Mark Athitakis, critic

“provocative”: “about race/religion” @mathitak Mark Athitakis, critic

“promising debut”: “many flaws, but not unforgivably bad” @mathitak Mark Athitakis, critic

“unflinching”: “has a lot of bad words” @isabelkaplan Isabel Kaplan, novelist (Hancock Park)

“visionary”: “can’t be proved wrong yet” @IsabelAnders Isabel Anders, author (Blessings and Prayers for Married Couples)

voice of a generation”: “instantly dated” @MarkKohut Mark Kohut, writer and consultant

“weighty”: “I had to lug this dense historical monster all over town and I still can’t bring myself to finish it” @emilynussbaum Emily Nussbaum, writer for New York magazine and other publicatons

“wildly imaginative”: “wrote book high on mescaline” @simonm223 Simon McNeil, novelist

“a writer to watch”: “as opposed to one you are actually going to want to read” @janiceharayda Jan Harayda, novelist and editor of One-Minute Book Reviews

You’ll find more publishing buzzwords decoded in the sequel to this post at http://bit.ly/pubcode2.

You can follow Jan on Twitter at www.twitter.com/janiceharayda.

July 7, 2009

What’s So Great About ‘Empathy’?

Filed under: Current Events — 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom @ 12:25 am
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“Empathy” has become the Portuguese water dog of the English language, something everybody seems to want – at least in somebody else. President Obama said that he wanted a Supreme Court justice who had it, and a lot of people have rushed to agree: In the New York Times, you see the word “empathy” almost as often as “transparency.”

But is “empathy” really better than detachment, or the ability to stand back and analyze a situation objectively? Mark Steyn argued that it isn’t in a recent issue of Maccleans, the Canadian weekly. Steyn is more conservative than I am on many issues, including some that he discusses in “What Price Our Pseudo-Empathy?,” but he writes with verve and intelligence about a form of language abuse that occurs at many points on the political spectrum and in novels as well as political speeches.

March 11, 2009

Claire Messud Won a 2007 Delete Key Award for These Clichés. Should Barbara Walters Win One for Hers?

Filed under: Delete Key Awards — 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom @ 3:22 pm
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What does it take to win a Delete Key Award for the year’s worst writing in books? Two years ago it took the clichés found in Claire Messud’s The Emperor’s Children. That novel was the second runner-up in 2007 Delete Key Awards competition, finishing behind Mitch Albom’s For One More Day (first runner up) and Danielle Steel’s Toxic Bachelors (grand prize winner). Messud received her Delete Key Award for lines like:

“It filled her with despair, a literal leadening of her limbs, a glazing of the eyes, so that she could barely lift the sheets of paper around her, and certainly couldn’t decipher what was written upon them.”

Among the problems with the sentence: That “leadening” wasn’t literal but metaphorical, and the sentence is infested with clichés

Messud was also recognized for writing that one of her characters “never knew in life whether to be Pierre or Natasha, the solitary, brooding loner or the vivacious social butterfly.”

As opposed, presumably, to a loner who wasn’t solitary.

This year Barbara Walters made the Delete Key shortlist for her cliché-stuffed Audition, which brims with sentences like:

“Just before the ax fell, lightning struck and my life changed, never to be the same again.”

Has Waltters surpassed Messud? Is her sentence bad enough to win a Delete Key Award? If you’d like to try to tamper with the jury, you have until Saturday.

Read some of the comments on Messud’s Delete Key Award here.

The 2009 Delete Key Award winners will be announced on Monday, March 16, beginning at 10 a.m. Eastern Time.

© 2009 Janice Harayda.
www.twitter.com/janiceharayda

February 26, 2009

2009 Delete Key Awards Finalist #6 — Andrew Blechman’s ‘Leisureville’

Filed under: Delete Key Awards,News — 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom @ 1:02 pm
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Delete Key Awards Finalist #6 comes from Andrew Blechman’s Leisureville: Adventures in America’s Retirement Utopias (Atlantic Monthly Press, 244 pp., $25).

“Women who once burned their bras now pay handsomely for expensive brassieres and plastic surgery.”

How long will writers keep repeating the myth that women once “burned their bras”? Feminists wanted to burn their bras during the 1968 Miss America pageant. But they didn’t, because Atlantic City officials wouldn’t give them a fire permit: They threw their bras in a garbage can instead. Even if Blechman’s statement were true — which, repeat, it isn’t — it would be a wild distortion, suggesting that all over America women who once burned their bras are having eye bobs instead. “Bra burners” became a cliché about 15 minutes after it surfaced in the New York Post. And when was the last time anybody under the age of 90 used the stilted word “brassiere”?

© 2009 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.

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