Obiter Dictum

Woman's virtue is man's greatest invention --- Cornelia Otis Skinner

Monday, September 18

If you don't understand the difference.......

Honestly. Its time for my weekly rant about book reviews. Some people, however, appear not to know the difference between taking a piece of literature and re-doing it (or dumbing it down) so people can understand it, and writing a book review that you know most people aren't going to get. So, for your people, let me see if I can illustrate the difference:

Taking Shakespeare and translating it into easier language will get you a lot of new readers. Maybe. But, you're also taking away most of what makes Shakespeare worth reading in the first place.

But, writing a book review using words that most people won't know is just ridiculous. I gave the inter alia example a few weeks ago. Today's eye roll comes from the New York times book review. I generally don't bother reading it because half the time I spend more time trying to unravel what the reviewer is saying that I don't care about the actual book being reviewed when I make it to the end. Useless. But, they were doing John Le Carre so I decided to take a look. Exhibit one:

“The Spy Who Came in From the Cold,” to name just one example, is much less an exciting espionage novel than a wholly original cri de coeur about the amorality of governments on both sides of the Iron Curtain and, unexpectedly, about the anti-Semitism that remained endemic to both Soviet socialism and Western capitalism long after the fall of the Berlin Wall.

"cri de coeur"? Is that something I should know? A literary term, perhaps? Or is it just French for the sake of speaking French? If the former, shame on me. If the latter, fuck you. You're a book review. Speak English to me and tell me why you think I should, or shouldn't, care about the damn book.

Honestly. Next we'll have book reviewers using Greek (ancient, not modern) in their reviews just to one up the Latin and the French! All the while, book readers will be saying the hell with reviews......which, I guess, they should be doing anyway. Dear book reviewers: stop taking yourselves so seriously. The book you're reviewing is the important thing, not your review!

Update: I liked the WaPo's review much better.

Of course, there are good reviews as well. I loved this one. The image of "being stoned to death with popcorn" will make me laugh for the rest of the day.


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