One-Minute Book Reviews

November 12, 2013

William Logan’s ‘The Undiscovered Country,’ Award-Winning Poetry Reviews

Filed under: Poetry — 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom @ 10:49 pm
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What winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award most deserved the prize? My favorite honorees include William Logan’s The Undiscovered Country: Poetry in the Age of Tin, a collection of essays and reviews on poetry, and I explain why in a post on the NBCC blog that begins:

“William Logan once heard a poet say that poets in the 1950s were afraid of three things: ‘Randall Jarrell’s reviews, Robert Lowell’s poetry, and the atomic bomb.’ Today’s poets have three different fears: William Logan’s reviews, John Ashbery’s poetry, and not getting tenure. [read more]

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.

January 20, 2011

What Makes a Book Review Work? Quote of the Day

Filed under: Quotes of the Day — 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom @ 11:25 pm
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Many well-written book reviews are unsatisfying because critics fail to describe and evaluate an author’s main ideas or themes. Longtime Library Journal editor Barbara Hoffert alluded to the problem at a recent National Book Critics Circle program, “Book Reviews, Revamped.” Hoffert said she often tells reviewers:

“I want to know what this book’s argument is, and does it make sense?”

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.

January 12, 2010

Fake Book News #2 — National Book Critics Circle

Filed under: Fake Book News,Humor,Late Night With Jan Harayda,News — 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom @ 11:32 pm
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National Book Critics Circle changes its name to National Association of Unemployed Former Book Editors.

Fake Book News is new category on this site that satirizes American literary culture, including the publishing industry, in posts after 10 p.m. Eastern Time. All posts consist of made-up news items that are intended to be entertaining — not taken seriously — and many will also appear on the FakeBookNews page (@fakebooknews) on Twitter (www.twitter.com/fakebooknews). Some Fake Book News may appear on One-Minute Book Reviews but not on Twitter and vice versa.

January 11, 2010

Jonathan Yardley’s ‘Second Reading’ Ends Its Great Run

Filed under: Classics — 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom @ 10:34 pm
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Jonathan Yardley recently stopped writing his wonderful Washington Post column on notable or neglected books of the past, “Second Reading,” and I haven’t linked to it nearly enough. But you can read some of its spirited reviews online, and I encourage you to seek them out. You’ll find good examples of the vigor, intelligence and moral fearlessess of Yardley’s literary criticism in his blistering denunciation of The Catcher in the Rye, in his mixed appraisal of Sula, and in his embrace of the underappreciated The Collected Stories of Peter Taylor.

October 4, 2009

How Reviewing Opens Your Mind to Books — My Comments on the 35th Anniversary of the National Book Critics Circle

Filed under: News — 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom @ 1:03 pm
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A copy of my remarks at the National Book Critics Circle’s recent 35th anniversary celebration has been posted on the NBCC site, and if you’re interested, you can find my comments here.

September 14, 2009

‘There Is a Difference Between a Book Review and a Book Recommendation’ – Quote of the Day / Bethanne Patrick

Filed under: Quotes of the Day — 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom @ 6:25 pm
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“There is a difference between a book review and a book recommendation.”
Bethanne Patrick, a critic and book blogger for Publishers Weekly, on a panel on the topic “Book Reviews: 2010′” at the 2009 Book Expo America trade show, as quoted on the blog for the National Book Critics Circle

September 13, 2009

John Ashbery, E.L. Doctorow Help Critics Celebrate Their 35th Anniversary

The winner of the first National Book Critics Circle Award for poetry

Update: 2:25 p.m. Monday: A video of John Ashbery’s entertaining talk has been posted on the NBCC blog.

You might expect an anniversary party for a literary-critics’ organization to resemble a wake now that so many book-review sections have folded or shrunk. But the mood was lively at the festivities that marked the 35th year of the National Book Critics Circle last night at the Jerome L. Greene Performance Space in downtown Manhattan.

I spoke at the event along with the poet John Ashbery, the novelist E. L. Doctorow and dozens of current and former NBCC board members. Ashbery, born nearly a half century before the critics’ organization was founded, received the first NBCC Award for poetry in 1975 for his Self-Portrait in a Convex Mirror, which also won a Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award. And he set the tone  of the anniversary celebration when he said: “It’s great to be back here. Actually, it’s great to be anywhere.”

Ashbery praised the Rain Taxi Review of Books and offered it as partial evidence that serious criticism of poetry and other art forms exists amid the meltdown at newspapers. The NBCC has posted a brief news report on his speech on its blog. You’ll find excerpts from other speakers’ comments, including mine, in a separate post there. The full text of all the speeches is scheduled to appear soon the NBCC site.

August 14, 2009

The Benefits of Reviewing Even When the Pay Is Terrible, the Books Are Bad, and the Authors Are Only Going to Hate You, Anyway – Quote of the Day / Rebecca West

Filed under: Quotes of the Day — 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom @ 1:52 am
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You could earn more per hour as a migrant grape-picker than you can by reviewing for many newspapers, and the odds are that an editor will ask you to write about a bad book and that the author will hate you afterward. So why volunteer for the work?

One of the best answers I’ve heard came from the novelist and critic Rebecca West in a Paris Review interview, collected in Writers at Work: Sixth Series (Viking, 1984) and in Women Writers at Work: The Paris Review Interviews (Modern Library, 1998). Marina Warner asked West if she enjoyed reviewing for the Sunday Telegraph, then as now a leading national newspaper in Britain. West replied:

“Yes, I do. I do. I would feel awfully cut off if I didn’t review; I think it’s such a good discipline. It makes you really open your mind to a book. Probably you wouldn’t, if you just read it.”

Many critics like the serendipity or reviewing, or getting assigned books they wouldn’t otherwise have picked up, and I do, too. But I also like having to focus on books in a way that I don’t usually do when I’m reading for pleasure. You have to look harder at books when you’re reviewing them – you can never skim, ever — and when you do, you see more.

www.janiceharayda.com and www.twitter.com/janiceharayda

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