One-Minute Book Reviews

January 23, 2008

Would It Help If Book Critics Switched to Decaf? Review Inflation Spins Out of Control at U.S. Newspapers and Magazines (Quote of the Day/Gail Pool)

So many book reviews are so overheated, you almost need to handle them with asbestos tongs. Gail Pool gives examples of the review inflation in her recent Faint Praise:

“ . .. how can I believe the praise [in reviews] when there’s so much of it and so much of it is over the top? On a single Sunday book page, Boston Globe reviewers declare that Michael Ondaatje, in Anil’s Ghost, has created ‘a novel of exquisite refractions and angles: gorgeous but circumspect,’ that Rupert Thomson’s The Book of Revelation has ‘that rightness that makes a work of art,’ that Leonard Michael’s Girl with a Monkey is ‘uncompromising fiction. … They hardly make it like that anymore,’ and that Zadie Smith, in White Teeth, has ‘changed literature’s future.’ The Washington Post Book World, reviewing Rick Moody’s memoir, says that its ‘timeless exploration of the issues that are essential to what it means to be an American makes it likely that The Black Veil will take its place among classic American memoirs’; Boston Book Review proclaims that Peter Carey’s True History of the Kelly Gang, has ‘permanently extended the range of the English language’; …

“How can I trust such assessments to guide my reading when most books, I find, are at best pretty good, and when I know that few books in a century change literature let alone the English language?”

Gail Pool in Faint Praise: The Plight of Book Reviewing in America (University of Missouri Press, $19.95, paperback) www.umsystem.edu/upress, a critique of book reviewing in newspapers, magazines and other media. Pool is a Massachusetts writer who edited Other People’s Mail: An Anthology of Letter Stories. She wrote a column on new fiction for the Plain Dealer when I was the book editor.

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

April 11, 2007

What Makes a Poem Work? Quote of the Day #18

Filed under: Quotes of the Day — 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom @ 5:15 pm
Tags: , , , , , , ,

Poet Robert Cording recently gave this answer to the question, “What makes a poem convincing?”

“I always tell my students that the first question they must answer when they write is: Why is the speaker of the poem speaking? If a poem is to be convincing, then the speaker of the poem must be convincing. The reader must feel that he/she is making contact with a real human being, not simply with arguments and opinions. If the poems feels like it has sifted and arranged received ideas, then it will fail. The poem has to feel, I think, as if there is a real person struggling with real experiences that will not yield some handy lesson, but nevertheless are not entirely without meaning. The voice that convinces will always be the voice of an individual who the reader experiences as an individual and not as a spokesperson for this or that idea.”

Robert Cording in “Robert Cording: 10 Minute Interview,” CavanKerry News, Fall 2006. Cording, Barrett Professor of Creative Writing at the College of the Holy Cross, is the author of Common Life: Poems (CavanKerry, 2006) and three other collections. His work has appeared many national publications, including the Nation, Paris Review, Kenyon Review, and The New Yorker. Common Life was reviewed on this site on April 5 and is archived with the April posts and in the “Poetry” category.

(c) 2007 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.

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