Atonement for a bad book review
Weâ€™ve posted about writers criticizing other writers, but this week in The Wall Street Journal, Susan Shapiro writes about perhaps the most stinging and dreaded literary take-down: the negative review.
Apparently itâ€™s not just writers who feel bad about a scathingly harsh reviewâ€”critics do too.
“Writing a nasty review is enjoyable, but only in a nasty way,” said Lev Grossman, a senior writer and book critic for Time Magazine. “Afterward, you dislike yourself.”
On Saturday, the National Book Critics Circle will sponsor an event at the Lit Crawl NYC festival called â€śRevise & Recantâ€ť where book reviewers from various publications will make â€śpublic apologies.â€ť Hosted by Melville House author John Reed, the event listing suggests that a few mystery guests will show up to plead forgiveness. Perhaps Michiko Kakutani will make a rare appearance?
Just in case, here are some of the worst zingers from negative reviews, just begging for atonement.
â€śMr. Franzen turns his unforgiving eye on himself and succeeds in giving us an odious self-portrait of the artist as a young jackass: petulant, pompous, obsessive, selfish and overwhelmingly self-absorbed.â€ť â€”Michiko Kakutaniâ€™s review of Jonathan Franzenâ€™s memoir The Discomfort Zone in the New York Times
“Imagine someone holding forth on biology whose only knowledge of the subject is the Book of British Birds, and you have a rough idea of what it feels like to read Richard Dawkins on theology.”Â â€”Terry Eagleton’s review of The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins in the London Review of Books
â€śIt isnâ€™t terrible, it is just so … average. It is averagely compelling (I finished it), involves an average amount of concentration and, if such a thing makes sense, is averagely well written: excellent in its averageness!â€ť â€”Geoff Dyer reviews Julian Barnesâ€™s The Sense of an Ending in the New York Times
“This is easily one of the worst books Iâ€™ve ever read. And bear in mind that Iâ€™ve read John Grisham.” â€”Susan Cohenâ€™s review of The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo in The Charleston City Paper
Claire Kelley is the Director of Library and Academic Marketing at Melville House.