The Book Business: An Industry of Whiners
Book Reviewers: Writers who Write About Writing, Oh My!
When reviewers spend four to seven hours reading a book, they don’t want to write 55 words and give it one to four stars à la film critics.
Book critics want to express themselves by showing off how much they know. They clear their throats, roll up their sleeves, and rub their hands together in order to prove they have the credentials to critique a book. We are forced to suffer through a tiresome account of the reviewer’s intimate knowledge of the subject, the genre and opinions of the author’s previous books.
The ultimate aim of book reviewers is to make that one reader out of a hundred, who knows what the hell he or she is talking about, feel good, while they gleefully make the other 99 of us feel like illiterate chumps.
At about paragraph five or six, the real review begins.
When the weekend edition of The Wall Street Journal arrived last Saturday, I found the review of a new book of interest to me, “Can We Trust the BBC?” by Robert Aitken.
Mark Steyn’s review ran a mind-numbing 1,455 words.
The first 409 words were devoted to a series of rambling observations about CNN and the reviewer’s experience with the BBC in an Amman, Jordan, hotel room. This was followed by a tale of how he watched the BBC in London and found himself
... mesmerized by a game show on BBC4 in which the four male contestants had to remove the brassieres of the four female contestants without using their hands. I used to be able to do this myself, but frankly I’m a little rusty and was eager to bring myself up to speed. Yet, as miscellaneous noses and teeth nuzzled and gnawed at clasps and underwiring, I found myself oddly distracted: Talk about a public service!