Saturday, January 21, 2012

The Art and Craft of Book Reviewing

read the review
Robert Burns offered a paean "To a Louse" and said ...
O would some Power the gift to give
To see ourselves as others see us!
It would from many a blunder free us ...
That's one reason I always enjoy, in a strange fashion, comparing what I write as a book review to that of a person who knows how to write and intelligent an comprehensive review. Granted, for both venues where I write reviews, I must conform to a loose formula and stick to a word count.

A few weeks ago, I reviewed An Available Man, the latest from Hilma Wolizter. It was a decent book. Literary. Yet "literary" while drawn from reality, literary constructed from the rumble of imagined grief. The theme might be loosely summed up in this sentence.
Sometimes ironic, sometimes melancholy, Edward’s reluctant “dating after death” begins with toned and hungry Karen hot to finish dinner and head home for a romp in the hay.

Among her observations were "Wolitzer’s vision of the world, for all its sorrow, is often hilarious and always compassionate." I felt the compassion, but I surely didn't feel the hilarity but rather a wryness and ironic distant generated by the situation, but then I'm not a "20th century New Yorker," which Kline describes as the milieu from which the work of Wolitzer is drawn. And neither am I so familiar with the classics that I could come to the observation "we realize that he is Odysseus, wandering the world on his way home."

On the other hand, there's some stuff that's easy to review. All it takes is gunfights, pyrotechnics, and "a bizarre fencing duel involving cattle prods and chain saws" -- Gideon's Corpse
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