One-Minute Book Reviews

January 7, 2013

Today’s Gusher Award for Literary Hype Goes to …

Filed under: Gusher Awards — 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom @ 8:20 pm
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The latest in a series of posts that recognize out-of-control praise for books

Today’s Gusher Award for Achievement in Literary Hype Goes to …

“George Saunders Has Written the Best Book You’ll Read This Year”
Title of an article in the The New York Times Magazine, Jan. 6, 2013

Reality check: Someone at the New York Times may have been reading too many Cosmopolitan articles with titles like, “The Best Sex You’ll Have All Year.” Ninety-five percent of 2013 books haven’t been published yet. And you might read Shakespeare this year.

June 4, 2011

Today’s Gusher Award for Literary Hype Goes to …

Filed under: Gusher Awards — 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom @ 2:19 pm
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Today’s Gusher Award for Literary Hype Goes to …

The Los Angeles Times wins this week’s Gusher Award for Achievement in Literary Hype for these lines from a review of Karen Russell’s St. Lucy’s Home for Girls Raised by Wolves:

“Uh-oh. Run for your life. This girl is on fire.”

Get a fire extinguisher and put out the flames of hyperbole in this one.

Gusher Awards recognize over-the-top praise for books or authors in reviews, blurbs or elsewhere. One-Minute Book reviews welcomes nominations for them.  Read more Gusher Award winners here. You can also follow Jan Harayda (@janiceharayda) on Twitter at www.twitter.com/janiceharayda.

(c) 2011 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.

February 18, 2011

Today’s Gusher Award for Literary Hype Goes to …

Filed under: Gusher Awards — 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom @ 3:29 am
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Jonathan Franzen says that when he first read  Paula Fox’s Desperate Characters, it seemed to him ”obviously superior to any novel by Fox’s contemporaries John Updike, Philip Roth, and Saul Bellow.” — From Franzen’s introduction to Desperate Characters: A Novel (Norton, 1999, paperback).

Comment: I admire Fox and think her books are underrated, but Franzen’s hype tests the patience even of a champion of her Borrowed Finery and The Coldest Winter. Click here to read other Gusher-Award winners.


June 18, 2010

And the Latest Gusher Award for Achievement in Hyperbole in Book Reviewing Goes to …

Filed under: Gusher Awards — 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom @ 9:09 am
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Aimee Bender makes you “grateful for the very existence of language.”

– From a review of The Girl in the Flammable Skirt in the San Francisco Chronicle

As the novelist Jennifer Weiner said in posting this quote on Twitter, “I have my doubts.”

Gusher Awards recognize over-the-top praise in book reviews. To read earlier posts in the series, click here.

June 25, 2009

Backscratching in Our Time – Stephen McCauley and Elinor Lipman

Filed under: Backscratching in Our Time — 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom @ 10:33 pm
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The latest in an occasional series of posts on authors who praise each other’s books

Stephen McCauley on Elinor Lipman’s The Family Man:

“Elinor Lipman’s patented blend of wit, whimsy, and love for her characters makes every sentence of The Family Man shine. The book is a delightful Manhattan romp that offers 300 pages of pure reading pleasure.”

Elinor Lipman on Stephen McCauley’s Alternatives to Sex:
Alternatives to Sex is my favorite of Stephen McCauley’s wonderful novels. This is genius at work, but genius of the best, most readable kind: witty, lovable, and so amazingly smart about love in many forms — about friendship, about marriage, about real estate.”

The “Backscratching in Our Time” archives have other examples of well-known authors who blurb each other’s books. Do you you know of writers should be included in this series? If so, you can nominate them by sending an e-message to the address on the “Contact” page for this site.

April 26, 2009

Elizabeth Strout’s ‘Olive Kitteridge’ Is Not ‘A Novel’

Filed under: News,Short Stories — 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom @ 12:08 am
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Why have so many critics bought into the hype that the Pulitzer Prize–winning Olive Kitteridge is “a novel in stories”? The publisher’s claim serves a clear marketing interest: Novels sell better than short stories. (“A novel in stories” doesn’t appear on the title page of Olive Kitteridge, which might have been a sign that the phrase came from the author instead of the publisher.) And the hype is – to put it charitably – misleading. Olive Kitteridge is a collection of linked short stories, known as a cycle of stories or short story cycle — a group of tales that, though entwined, can stand alone.

A critic who got it right was Jessica Treadway, who teaches at Emerson College and wrote in the Boston Globe:

Although the book is being marketed as ‘a novel in stories,’ it is not a novel” but “a unified cycle” of “tales focusing on characters inhabiting a single town.”

The Pulitzer Prize judges also correctly described Olive Kitteridge in giving it the 2009 fiction award, calling it “a collection of 13 short stories set in small-town Maine.”

Does harm really occur when critics regurgitate hype such as that Olive Kitteridge is a “novel in stories”? Part of the answer lies in the recent spate of fraudulent books billed as “memoirs,” which has shown how many people can be duped when critics and others don’t question publishers’ claims. And in the case of Olive Kitteridge, a more subtle harm may result.

American fiction has a stellar tradition of short story cycles that includes books different as Sherwood Anderson’s Winesburg, Ohio and Tama Janowitz’s Slaves of New York. Comparing Olive Kitteridge to one or two of these might enrich anyone’s understanding of it. By calling Strout’s book a novel, the publisher has made it less likely that people will do this. It has also raised the odds that readers will expect something closer to a traditional novel and come away disappointed.

A review of Olive Kitteridge will appear next week on this site. The weekly children’s-book review appeared in the post that preceded this one.

www.twitter.com/janiceharayda

April 17, 2009

Backscratching in Our Time – Haven Kimmel and Suzanne Finnamore

Filed under: Backscratching in Our Time,News — 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom @ 1:30 pm
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Haven Kimmel on Suzanne Finnamore’s Split: A Memoir of Divorce (Dutton, 2008):
“So perfectly right. I loved it, loved it, loved it. P.S. Loved it.”

Haven Kimmel on Suzanne Finnamore’s novel The Zygote Chronicles (Grove, 2002): “The Zygote Chronicles is tender and funny and perfect, and from now on I’m going to read it instead of having more children.”

Suzanne Finnamore on Haven Kimmel’s Something Rising: A Novel: (Free Press, 2005)
“It is impossible to put down, it is impossible to keep from laughing out loud, and it is impossible to imagine a more compelling and poignant coming-of-age story than Something Rising. Shades of Eudora Welty and Flannery O’Connor grace the text…her characters breathe and walk among us, haunting and glorious in their imperfection. It’s official: Haven Kimmel is a national treasure.”

This is the latest in an occasional series of posts on authors who praise each other’s books, inspired by “Logrolling in Our Time” in the old Spy magazine. You can find other examples of literary backscratching in the Backscratching in Our Time category. One-Minute Book Reviews welcomes suggestions about authors who should appear in this series.

© 2009 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.
www.janiceharayda.com and www.twitter.com/janiceharayda

March 13, 2009

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

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

A review of Joe Eck and Wayne Winterrowds’s Our Life in Gardens (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 322 pp., $30) in the New York Times Book Review:

“Once you wander into this book, you won’t be able to sit still for long anyway, what with having to scurry around looking for paper and pen to take notes on just a few more plants you must have, and leaping up to consult the pictures in your American Horticultural Society A-Z Encyclopedia of Garden Plants.”

Sounds like you’d better get that prescription for Xanax or Valium filled before you read this one, doesn’t it?

Gusher Awards recognize over-the-top praise in book reviews. They appear on Fridays except in weeks when no praise was too overheated to qualify.

Other Gusher Awards appeared on Dec. 11, Oct. 31, Sept. 5 and July 25.

One-Minute Book Reviews will announce the winners of the Delete Key Awards for the year’s worst writing in books on Monday, March 16, beginning at 10 a.m. Eastern Time.

© 2009 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.

October 31, 2008

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

Filed under: Gusher Awards — 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom @ 12:03 am
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And today’s Gusher Award for Achievement in Hyperbole in Book Reviewing goes to …

Frances Kiernan for a line in a Wall Street Journal column earlier this year in which she named The Bonfire of the Vanities one of the five best books about New York society:

“Few New Yorkers cross the Triborough Bridge without recalling Sherman McCoy’s disastrous detour into the South Bronx.”

Actually, few New Yorkers cross the Triborough without a) praying that they’ll get to the airport on time, b) hoping they have the five dollars for the toll, or c) wondering if the bicyclists are closing in on mental instability.

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

September 5, 2008

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

Filed under: Gusher Awards — 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom @ 11:08 am
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The Gusher Awards are back after a summer hiatus of a couple of weeks. This week’s award goes to …

“The Great American Novel is something like a unicorn – rare and wonderful, and maybe no more of a notion. Yet every few years or so, we trip across some semblance of one. Oof! What’s this? Why, it’s The Story of Edgar Sawtelle (Ecco), a sprawling skein of a yarn about a farm nestled up against the forest primeval …”
June 2008, Elle

Unicorns are not “rare and wonderful” and “maybe no more of a notion” — they are mythical and there’s no “maybe” about whether they are “a notion.” Mixing the simile in the first sentence with that metaphor of “a sprawling skein of a yarn” makes it worse, and “Great American Novel” and “forest primeval” are clichés. There’s been a lot of talk this year about the decline of book reviewing in newspapers, and women’s magazines aren’t helping with prose like this.

Gusher Awards appear on Fridays on One-Minute Book Reviews unless no praise went far enough over the top that week to qualify. For a different view of David Wroblewski’s Hamlet-influenced first novel, see the review of The Story of Edgar Sawtelle written in iambic trimeter verse that appeared on this site on Aug. 28 www.oneminutebookreviews.wordpress.com/2008/08/28/. A reading group guide to the novel was posted on Sept. 3 www.oneminutebookreviews.wordpress.com/2008/09/03/.

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

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