Here, as part of a larger feature on “Book Blogs.” (The review is by Matthew Vollmer.)
(To read the whole thing, you need Project Muse access, but even without it you can read some of the thing.)
(The feature was edited by Brian Carr, and includes reviews of NewPages and The Rumpus and The Millions and Big Other and The Nervous Breakdown and Bookslut and The Barking and MobyLives. Also, one of those reviews is by Mike Meginnis, and one is by Roxane Gay.)
David Fishkind recently asked “Are You Afraid of Politics?“, and a lot of people, myself included, chimed in. Since then I’ve realized I have much more to say on the subject.
I normally don’t think of politics in Democrat/Republican/presidential election terms. I’m registered as an independent, and I prefer to live my politics on a daily basis—which is why I don’t drive, buy organic food when I can, and support local businesses run by people I know, etc. But it would be damn foolish of me to not recognize that “the political is personal” (to invert a phrase), and that the gentle people elected to the state and federal levels regularly impact both my daily life and my career as a writer. Specifically:
I just read on MobyLives that the American Book Review has just released their Top 40 Bad Books list. To which, I can only say, Um, really? Ok, I can say a little more than that.
First of all, can a publication be crying for attention any more than this? No? Ok, good. I didn’t think so. So here’s your attention, American Book Review. Hi. Here it is. Here you go. Moving on.
Secondly, I forgive you, American Book Review. It’s ok. Sometimes I read a book and I don’t enjoy it as much as I wanted to, because every time I open a book I am looking for enjoyment. I may even call that book bad, but if I give it a second thought I soon realize that my opinion came out of a particular set of circumstances that is called my brain. And my brain is a very particular machine. It is not a literary-award-distributing-machine. It’s just a brain that likes to be entertained in the particular way that it finds entertaining. In fact, no brain is a literary-award-distributing-machine. The best book reviews are neither advertisements nor tossed rotten tomatoes. The best book reviewers show the reader what it was like to experience the book in question if you happen to be the one writing the book review. Nothing more. Nothing less.
We all know this. Certainly we all know this.
So, what is the point of collecting 40 book reviews that 40 distinguished book reviewers hate?
I am not sure. Maybe they just need a hug.
Or maybe there is more going on here under the surface? Someone? Anyone? Can a book really be categorically bad?
March 11th, 2010 / 3:50 am