One-Minute Book Reviews

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


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.

Was Norman Mailer’s Biography of Marilyn Monroe ‘A Labor of Lust’?

Filed under: Uncategorized — 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom @ 12:24 am
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Norman Mailer wrote a full-page letter to the New York Times Book Review to protest the editor’s decision to assign his novel Harlot’s Ghost to the critic John Simon, Gail Pool recalls in Faint Praise: The Plight of Book Reviewing in America (University of Missouri Press, 170 pp., $19.95, paperback). The novelist said that Simon wasn’t a fair choice partly because he had derided Mailer’s Marilyn: A Biography as “a labor of lust … a new genre called transcendental masturbation or metaphysical wet dreaming … a grisly roller-coaster ride along a biceps gone berserk.”

© 2008 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.


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