August 19th, 2011 / 3:00 pm
Behind the Scenes

Call For Anonymous Reviews

HTMLGiant is currently seeking anonymous reviews: 300-500 word reviews featuring a rating from 0.0-10.0, which can be sent to brooks [at] htmlgiant [dot] com. The new review section (containing longer formal reviews as well as shorter anonymous ones) can be perused here. Anonymous pieces published to date include reviews of Percival Everett, James Franco, Elizabeth J. Colen, John Jodzio, Tim Jones-Yelvington, Sean Lovelace, and Mary Miller. We consider reviews of forthcoming, new, or old books from small or large presses. Writing a review anonymously can induce euphoria, eliminate stage fright, indulge your adventurous nature, allow for uncensored expression, protect against the burning of bridges in the literary community, enable a new approach to creating a text, etc. HTMLGiant will not divulge its sources.


  1. guest

      What about 300-500 word reviews featuring a rating from 0.0-10.0 and a byline?

  2. Brooks Sterritt

      Only if the byline reads “Anonymous.”

  3. Rad864gorge

      How do these work, are the works to be reviewed assigned randomly or does the anonymous reviewer propose a work to review?

  4. Brooks Sterritt

      replying here even if redundant: Generally people have reviewed a book that interested them and submitted the finished review, though you can send examples of previous reviews and pitch a review beforehand if you like as well.

  5. Call For Anonymous Reviews | HTMLGIANT | provides entertainment through others errors.. or just plain stupidity

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  6. EC

      “protect against the burning of bridges in the literary community” — wow, that is quite a euphemism.

  7. Brooks Sterritt

      it actually isn’t a euphemism

  8. Ian keenan

      I myself would never, ever write an anonymous review.  I appreciate to some degree what you are trying to do here, that 95% of all reviews are pure logrolling and the internet has made it commonplace for certain divas to “strike back” at bad reviews, but it’s more important to face larger problems in contemporary literary reviewing.  I check this site from time to time but one of the things I don’t like about it is anonymous commentors, but maybe you all know who each other are.  Anonymous reviewing opens the door to jealous cheap shots that are frequent in the literary world, which don’t make any attempt to appreciate the substance of the work, and even if you try to edit out these tendencies and openly solicit reviews to eliminate a dominant coterie, I don’t think anything but a further deterioration of critical standards could result.. but I’m not telling you that you can’t try things.

      The literary canon mostly consists of people who had tremendous courage, and the vast majority of self-described writers today are utter cowards.  The second fact is not unique to our age but it affected comprehensively by the bureaucratization of literature and the establishment and reinforcement of professional hierarchies, however some people from that culture are able to escape those tendencies, with or without as you say “burning bridges” to the “literary community.”  In some cases the hierarchical culture turns certain people’s “opinions” into “administrative rulings” which people are taught to fear and abide by, resulting in writers that are lesser versions of dominant figures, but again this is by no means a phenomenon unique to our age.

      There is not a golden age of criticism and Anglo-American lit crit perhaps got a boost from Samuel Johnson’s Tourette’s Syndrome.  Reviews over the years that have been signed, of books and the other arts, continually feature jealous people who are reacting to perceptions of other people’s status or their fixed perception of the genre, not making a substantive attempt to grasp the book being considered.  It’s not clearly a case of mediocrities dressing down geniuses because geniuses are some of the worst offenders, often because their personal conceptions of literary form are so advanced that they can’t be troubled by alternate approaches to dealing with infinity.  The most influential critics are often those who foreground their theories while reducing the actual works in their midst, selectively presented, to mere illustrations of their theory.

      I have written drafts of negative reviews and abandoned them, rationalizing the decision by saying that others have already said the same thing, that good readers already think what I’m thinking, or that the matter is not worth my time or, yes, alienating certain people.  Perhaps I shouldn’t have canned them but publishing them anonymously is an option which I would never for a moment consider.  The idea that an anonymous review is a stepping stone for certain rookie reviewers’ pent up rage against some balloon that needs popping deprives them of the exercise of making a case for their viewpoint that they can defend, facing a backlash against the backlash in an engaged or detached fashion, and at times facing the fact that you can be wrong about someone else’s book.

      Again, I’m not telling you not to do this, but am just stating my disagreement and encouraging people to ‘envision a future of signed reviews’ that thoughtfully considers that literature is a set of possibilities bigger than anyone’s ego or career, and that heartfelt and independent affirmation and renunciation increases people’s devotion to these possibilities.

  9. Lincoln Michel

      Ah, I gotcha. Wouldn’t want to be “burning bridges” in the “literary community.” *wink* *wink* *nudge* *nudge*. You dog!

  10. Kent Johnson

      Of close connection, this forum of 32 very sharp responders, a good number of them prominent American poetry critics and editors, responding to a short essay I wrote on Anonymous and “negative” reviewing.

  11. deadgod

      Ian, the point, for at least some anonymous commenters on the internet, is to address things of interest without interposing “ego or career” – except what attaches to that/those blogonym/s – between comments and readers.  The comment can be read, attacked or supported or qualified, or Scrolled Right Past, without the identities of the commenter mutating from means to ends of the comment:  it’s not ‘what an Ivy-League lesbian would say’, or ‘a black guy’, or ‘a comfortably institutionalized rebel-academic’, or ‘what some particular type would say’–it’s just that comment, by-lined X.  (–and you realize that a blogonym, to the familiar, becomes as much of an identity as, say, “Ian keenan” – except that the former ‘name’ only attains the baggage that the comment history (and personal revelation therein) gives it.)

      I think that’s at least supposed to be the goal of anonymous reviews as well:  ‘thoughtful consideration’ – by who-cares-who.  That anonymous reviews will sometimes be plagued by spite, inaccuracy, covert career management?  Well, hell.

  12. Ian keenan

      “deadgod,” I agree that an internet pen name has an accumulated currency of sorts familiar to people you interact to.. in that case I was stating a personal preference which is anterior to the main point I was making.. basically I’m sorry if I was dealing in generalities too much to you or whomever above.. (and repeating common themes)

      I’m trying to think of a time when there was a tremendously helpful, important review written anonymously in literary history, ever. I can think of times when writers have written reviews for money under pen names, and for that matter, I would prefer a reviewer that writes under a secret pen name to “anonymous.”

      In the performing arts there tend to be more demarcations between “author” and “critic” which give the critic a free hand to not worry about straining creative relationships. Then the playwrights say “oh, that’s a frustrated would-be.” In the literary world many of the most important critics have never written much of anything creatively but many of the best criticism over the years is still written by major novelists or poets, always using their name, and somehow they find a way to get creative work published and quietly eat their eggs and toast in public places.

      Anyway, perhaps I am pre-judging this project and those concerns of mine that are legitimate can be addressed by editorial review.  On the other hand, I caution that I for one am not one to assume that these diversions from the way things happen in literary history are always for the good. New projects often get this sort of reaction.

  13. Brooks Sterritt

      Hahaha. What I meant to say was that “writing a review” is a euphemism for “wetting the bed.”

  14. Brooks Sterritt

      Kent, thanks for this. Your paragraph below nails it:

      “Fawning, toadyish criticism, then, is likely to remain the default setting so long as ‘negative’ reviewing constitutes a potential hazard to the position and advancement of the poet-reviewer. (Interestingly, by the way, it’s in top-tier journals like Poetry where negative reviews are most likely to appear, since the capital accruing to the poet-reviewer compensates for the risk.) Given this, maybe it’s time that magazines, of all aesthetic shapes and circulation sizes, resurrect the venerable practice of ‘unsigned’ reviews. There’s no question readers, in the main, would be tickled and intrigued.”

  15. deadgod

      Well, of anonymous criticism in literary history, there is the post-10th c. – and especially the modern – case of pseudo-Longinus ( ).

      –but your point obtains, regardless of whether a handful of anonymous critics flourished during this or that period (including but not limited to their own lifetimes):  anonymity sometimes contributes to unfairness and stupidity in literary conversation.

      I’d say, though, that useful (and, occasionally, beautiful) anonymous criticism is, as with anonymous ‘primary’ literature, at least partly uncommon owing less to the defects of anonymity than to the attractions of celebrity and notoriety (and the skills of literary detectives).

      I agree that novelty for the sake of novelty is not always – hardly ever – for the good. 

      –but I think that [many more smart people than ever before] + [mass literacy] + [the internet] is festering newish-to-new strains of scholarship as well as of literature.  For the good? the better? the not-altogether-shitty?  ??

  16. Ian keenan

      OK Longinus is a good example, glad you came up with something, and one can speculate what his motives were for anonymity at that time, but it had theoretical usefulness. The function of the anonymous review is usually to say “this is junk” rather than to question the theoretical basis of the work.

      I read Kent Johnson’s discussion linked to.. first of all, Johnson has come out with send-ups of large group of writers which in subsequent incarnations became slightly less prickly and more fuzzy when he graduated from negative attention, so I can’t accuse him of shying from signed negative criticism, and wasn’t aware of any influence he had on this idea. But Johnson’s preference for the sizzle of the scandal seems to be more evident than concerns that the standards of literature can be improved by this sort of scrutiny.

      That discussion, for those that addressed the question like Mark Wallace, cited that there lacks the economic incentive for negative reviewing, which I was perhaps cavalier about above while making a similar point.  But I wonder whether the lack of negative reviewing because people don’t want to sign it isn’t such a good thing. Silliman faced a backlash because some people didn’t like that his inclination to ignore the impulse not to be negative seemed to empower him even if he was wasn’t hiring people in lit land, and there were a lot of nasty anonymous people there and elsewhere. My assumption is that unsigned reviews would mostly be a case of settling scores in a cowardly manner, but it depends how the device is used. I don’t see how it could raise interest in literary publications in general. My original point was so much ‘I’m against it’ but not accepting the assumption that honest literary criticism is not to be signed, which others seem to have accepted.

  17. BoomersMustDie

      Unless you’re planning on paying the reviewers, what’s the payoff sans byline? Aren’t we all aspiring/emerging novelists and poets?

  18. Kent Johnson

      Thanks, Brooks. Anonymous/nom de plume reviewing used to be conventional practice. No real evidence that anything terrible happened because of it…
      And BoomersMustDie, your question relates a bit to something I suggested in a recent interview here with Chris Higgs. There’s no necessary dilemma. Individual “Payoff,” if that’s the general goal (“payoff” could mean lots of things!), needn’t be based on this or that discrete publication; the goal of critical anonymity could be more long-term, more political, so to speak, guided by broader views of cultural resistance and critique: In that, writers could easily combine, in very creative ways (individually, collectively), a spectrum of modes of authorial presentation–and this could be done across genres, not least criticism, where writers might fluidly move back and forth, as contingencies dictate, between conventional ascription and not.

  19. BoomersMustDie

      Seems a rather nebulous thing to expend effort on… but sure, I get your point

  20. Ian keenan

      Kent, I repeat the question: When there was a tremendously helpful, important review written anonymously in literary history, ever? (other than good ol’ Longinus)..

      “Guided by broader views of cultural resistance..” Really, gutless sucker punches are guided by broader views of cultural resistance, or tell me which big shot writer has attained the status of Petain to justify this resistance cell of snide backstabbing?

      Big picture is some folks in the 1780s got that 1st Amendment through, unlike the other countries or what we’d get from a constitutional convention today, and you have the right to gather masked snipers on the roof and call it a creative resistance, and I have the right to call it what it is. We can stand together and salute the flag on that Allen anthology or whatever.

  21. Ian keenan

      thanks for playing “Use Your Name” ))

  22. Kent Johnson

      >you have the right to gather masked snipers on the roof and call it a creative resistance, and I have the right to call it what it is.

      Well, with that attitude, I guess there’s not much chance at all of having a conversation, is there?! I suppose my argument for the potential value of anonymous/pseudonymous reviewing is sufficiently contained in the Mayday introduction I linked to previously.
      On your “repeated question”: I hadn’t noticed your comments, so no avoidance intended. One place you may wish to look, at least for starters, is Chapter 6 of John Mullan’s Anonymity: A Secret History of English Literature (Princeton UP, 2009). The chapter’s titled “Reviewing,” and it’s all about nom-de-plume criticism. In any case, the particular way you frame the query strikes me as somewhat absurd, given that there have been thousands and thousands of anonymous reviews written over the centuries (they were quite common in 18th and 19th English-language literature, and even also before the middle of this century). My guess is that a good number of them have proven to speak in some way to the rather vague adjectives you deploy above (even as we should know, I hope, how presumptuous it is to claim for our own modest purview a sole understanding of the “helpful” and “important”). Check your old Nortons: You’ll find lots of folks in there who were pretty “tremendously helpful” and “important” figures who wrote their share of anonymous pieces.

  23. Kent Johnson

      >you have the right to gather masked snipers on the roof and call it a creative resistance, and I have the right to call it what it is.

      Well, with that attitude, I guess there’s not much chance at all of having a conversation, is there?! I suppose my argument for the potential value of anonymous/pseudonymous reviewing is sufficiently contained in the Mayday introduction I linked to previously.
      On your “repeated question”: I hadn’t noticed your comments, so no avoidance intended. One place you may wish to look, at least for starters, is Chapter 6 of John Mullan’s Anonymity: A Secret History of English Literature (Princeton UP, 2009). The chapter’s titled “Reviewing,” and it’s all about nom-de-plume criticism. In any case, the particular way you frame the query strikes me as somewhat absurd, given that there have been thousands and thousands of anonymous reviews written over the centuries (they were quite common in 18th and 19th English-language literature, and even also before the middle of this century). My guess is that a good number of them have proven to speak in some way to the rather vague adjectives you deploy above (even as we should know, I hope, how presumptuous it is to claim for our own modest purview a sole understanding of the “helpful” and “important”). Check your old Nortons: You’ll find lots of folks in there who were pretty “tremendously helpful” and “important” figures who wrote their share of anonymous pieces.

  24. Ian keenan

      Kent, That’d be no, you can’t name any such review, and we can agree to disagree whether “helpful” and “important” is a relevant standard to hold literary criticism to.

  25. Kent Johnson

      No Ian, you’ve got it wrong. I can! But rather than me offering you examples in a comments field (suggestions you’d reject as not “helpful” or “iomportant,” I suspect, given what appears to be your earnest shut-mindedness), I’m inviting you to go out and educate yourself a little bit. I’ve given you a good starting point as a source. This independent scholarship will surely prove more “important” to your edification than if I were to offer you cases.
      Good luck.

  26. Ian keenan

      Kent, You can but you can’t, because you can’t. There are people who used this tactic before, but you can’t think of anything of any value, so you resort to condescension as fake helpfulness. And that’s when you sign your name!

  27. deadgod

      Let me point out that I don’t think that ‘Longinus’ (or pseudo-Longinus) is believed to have kept his name or identity hidden, and that, in my small knowledge, his name was known in antiquity.  It – ‘he’ – was mistaken in medieval manuscript transmission, which mistaking we now understand to constitute a loss:  is how I understand things to be.

      I took “anonymous” in a broader sense than you might have meant it:  ‘whose name isn’t known during some particular period when she or he has literary/cultural effect’–in the case of ‘Longinus’, for at least a millenium ’til now.  I don’t think he wrote anonymously or pseudonymously.

      It’s a fascinating case of errant attribution (from the Britannica):

      Cassius Longinus, of the third c., was tremendously famed as a scholar, “a living library and walking museum [of knowledge]”.  (He also was the guy who went east, perhaps to teach the Greek language, and became a chief advisor to Zenobia, the great queen of Palmyra (do you know Richard Halliburton??).  When she lost her war for independence with Rome, this Longinus was executed for his enmity to the empire.)  –but Cassius Longinus flourished about 300 years after On the Sublime is taken, on stylistic grounds, to have been written (ca. mid-1st c.).

      The other name written on the earliest surviving manuscript is “Dionysius”, which name indicates a handful of possible but not adequately demonstrated figures.

      On the Sublime is still especially important to poetry lovers because it saved for posterity what’s left of Psappho’s ode to the girl sitting across from and flirting with the guy who’s ‘godlike’ because she is interested in him, which wonderful poem was ‘translated’ (also wonderfully) by Catullus (and has been by many others).

  28. Kent Johnson

      Well, since you are being very stubborn and somewhat insulting, here are some fairly notable writers who have written anonymous reviews, or lesser known ones whose anonymous reviews proved to be “helpful” or “important” to literary history, in different ways:
      Coleridge (a series of them against Charles Maturin, and who otherwise claimed to be against the practice!); Thackeray, who cut his teeth on anonymous reviewing; Francis Jeffrey (countless of them in the Edinburgh Review, which he long edited, and without which journal’s scathing, anonymous review of Byron we never would have got English Bards and Scotch Reviewers); John [not Samuel] Taylor Coleridge (without whose negative anonymous review of “The Revolt of Islam” Shelley never would have written “Lines to a Critic”; the very famous (you seem to not know of them?) anonymous reviews of Keats’s Endymion, in Blackwood’s, by a mysterious ‘Z’ –and later, the anonymous review of the same by J.W. Crocker which was partly responsible (according to Shelley) for rushing Keats’s death; William Erskine’s glowing anonymous reviews of some of Walter Scott’s Waverly novels were key in promoting the reception of that work, and Scott was in on setting his friend up to do it, pieces which Scott then mostly rewrote (subterfuge in this case as helpful and important in regards literary history?); Mary Shelley’s anonymous review-essay in Blackwood’s of William Godwin revived the man’s declining reputation (he was her father); Tennyson’s career was greatly promoted through key early anonymous reviews (Poems, notably) in major periodicals, including controversial negative ones; George Eliot wrote many anonymous critical pieces for the Westminster Review, doing much good or not for many a writer, a number of the latter examples being quite infamous and perhaps, some critics have argued, helping to sweep away much of the sentimental rubbish then all the rage; an anonymous review in The Times helped launch Trollope’s career, this according to Trollope himself, even though he didn’t favor the practice in principle (contrary to Dickens, whose work received lots of anonymous reviews, in part because he stealthily helped arrange them); Whitman’s name and work was promoted by a number of anonymous reviews, some written by himself; Leonard and Virginia Woolf helped push forward their Hogarth Press with an anonymous review, in Athenaeum, of the first two titles they produced, one of them T.S. Eliot’s early Poems; Ezra Pound was reviewing anonymously for the TLS (which made a principle of sorts of anonymous reviewing), excoriating his enemies, lavishly promoting his modernist friends; Virginia Woolf did the same, though she tended to be more measured than Pound; T.S. Eliot, for many years, was a champion reviewer of anonymous critical pieces for the TLS and a polemical champion of the cultural benefits of anonymous reviewing. In other words, anonymous reviewing could be seen as having played a significant role in the very formation of literary Modernism over the first decades of the 20th century. And all these examples only pertain to English-language literature; the instances of anonymous reviewing (many highly satirical and political in nature) in international avant-garde literature, abound. 

  29. Ian keenan

      Very good Kent. My “reviews for money under pen names” above was a reference to the Pound/Eliot TLC reviews, which is more my turf than the blow by blow of the British Romantics, and I’m sure in your mind the value of these reviews are cumulatively more important than what Keats could have done past age 26 free of unsigned reviews.

  30. Kent Johnson

      Well, Ian, we seem to have hit the wall here. The examples I provided are just tiny fraction of a long and venerable history. You seemed to think that it barely existed.

      Since you seem to be have a developing interest in poetic history (it seems the a-g in particular, writ large and internationally), you should do some looking into the healthy role that “anonymous reviewing”–and pseudographic modes in general–did play.

  31. Ian keenan

      A-G was at eye level at the corner book store, chief, and sorry if I was disrespectful.  Good luck finding your Keats to toy with.

  32. Ian keenan

      oh, avant-g… that was on the other wall..

  33. Ian keenan

      An anthology of nom de plume reviews may be of passing interest as a curiosity, but there have been dozens of Pound and Eliot scholars that have formed the opinion that their nom de plume reviews were not worth including in the many essay collections compiled of those figures. I have read about those reviews but have never read a single one, because I wouldn’t know where to find one and have never for a moment been curious, including the present moment.  Pound’s panning of Olga Rudge’s fiddling didn’t preclude him from living with her for decades.  Neither of those figures, especially Pound, showed restraint in expressing their candid opinions about contemporary artists and writers under their signature in other venues, and it is those reviews that have been deemed valuable by scholars because they included literary ideas that show an individualistic vision that the writer wants to answer to personally, and understand to be recognizable as theirs whether signed or not.  The motives behind the Keats review, its lack of rigor in appreciating the invention of his art, and the effect of the review should be instructive to this question.

  34. Ian keenan

      OK I just googled, here’s one in full (Pound on Eliot):

      21 June 1917, no. 805, 299.

      “Mr. Eliot’s notion of poetry – he calls the ‘observations’ poems – seems
      to be a purely analytical treatment, verging sometimes on the catalogue,
      of personal relations and environments, uninspired by any glimpse beyond
      them and untouched by any genuine rush of feeling. As, even on this basis,
      he remains frequently inarticulate, his ‘poems’ will hardly be read by
      many with enjoyment. For the catalogue manner we may commend “Rhapsody
      on a Windy Night”:

      [Quotes ‘Half-past
      one’ to ‘a crooked pin’.]

      This recalls other twisted things to the mind, and later the street lamp
      [Quotes ‘Remark
      the cat’ to ‘which I held him’.]

      Among other reminiscences which pass through the rhapsodist’s mind and
      which he thinks the public should know about, are ‘dust in crevices, smells
      of chestnuts in the streets, and female smells in shuttered rooms, and
      cigarettes in corridors, and cocktail smells in bars.’The fact that these
      things occurred to the mind of Mr. Eliot is surely of the very smallest
      importance to any one – even to himself. They certainly have no relation
      to ‘poetry,’ and we only give an example because some of the pieces, he
      states, have appeared in a periodical which claims that word as its title.”

      Good stuff!  NOT interventionist, but rather a very banal invocation of standards “rush of feeling,” “the fact that these things occurred in the mind.. is.. of the very smallest importance..” Basically criticizing the ideas that he was contemporaneously fashioning into his Imagist tracts, and that Eliot would never abandon, even under Pound’s guidance.

  35. Robert Walser

      Virginia Woolf wrote many anonymous reviews.

  36. Robert Walser

      Was about to add that Woolf’s unsigned reviews appeared in the TLS when I
      loaded new comments and saw the refreshing thread on this august venue.
      So instead I reread the excellent Mayday domesday-essay (doubled, now
      darkened, flowering) by Kent Johnson, if that is his real name, and a
      handful of the healthily skeptical responses. I myself have zero
      interest in “negative” reviews of books as art (as opposed to, say,
      history, politics, etc.) unless the reviews themselves meet Baudelaire’s
      criteria (i.e. are themselves works of art) or at least are wildly
      entertaining. Too often, of course, they are neither. As far as the
      types of attacks that often appear on anonymous or “anonymous” blogs,
      protestations of the author (forgivable if avoidable) aside, who even
      reads these? When they do make the rounds, e.g. the sad case of “Worst.
      Book. Ever.” an anonymous (and misogynist) “review” by Michael Thomas
      Thurston, a “professor” of poetry at Plath’s alma mater of all places,
      of Dorothea Lasky’s BLACK LIFE, the closest thing the living have to
      Plath’s thunderbird, isn’t the critic’s cowardice clear to all but the

      As a dead writer of a foreign language, I might add that an unsigned TLS
      review (by Michael Hamburger) of a posthumous miscellany of my short
      prose (PROSA, Suhrkamp, 1960) triggered a trivial revival of my
      micro-reputation in the decade after my death. Although the TLS has
      abandoned anonymous reviews (as far as I know; again, I’m dead), I’d
      love to see HTMLGIANT take another page from their pages: reviews of
      literature in foreign languages.

      I often dream that Woolf read the unsigned TLS review from 1908 (a year
      in which several of her own unsigned reviews appeared in the then
      acronymless Times Literary Supplement, which at the time was only a few
      years older than HyperTextMarkupLanguageGIANT is now) of DER GEHÜLFE
      (Bruno Cassirer, 1908), in which Fanny Johnson, who was, like Woolf, a
      woman (a pseudonymous, indeed pseudepigraphic*, tradition of its own)
      noted that my second book, which only appeared in English almost a
      century later (THE ASSISTANT, New Directions, sublimely translated by
      Susan Bernofsky) “is full of the freshness of recent experience. It
      seems to bubble over
      with suggestions, of which the writer is himself, possibly, unaware”.

      *Woolf, a writer herself, would have been amused by the apocryphal
      attribution of “For
      most of history, anonymous was a woman,” an allegorization of her
      assignation, in A ROOM OF ONE’S OWN,
      “Indeed, I would venture to guess that Anon, who wrote so many poems
      without signing them, was often a woman.” Woolf’s ANON notes (and
      fragments) constitute one of the great unwritten (or unfinished) books.

      I wonder if Woolf knew of Coleridge’s hypo-criticism of Maturin. Here
      she is in “Reviewing” (1931), anticipating blind reviews of THE WAVES
      and slyly siding with “the ‘irresponsible’ and mostly anonymous
      reviewers,” tasked tripartitely and with “less time and less space”:

      “Has the reviewer, then, of imaginative literature any value at the
      present time to the writer, to the public, to the reviewer and to
      literature? And, if so, what? And if not, how could his function be
      changed, and made profitable? Let us broach these involved and
      complicated questions by giving one quick glance at the history of
      reviewing, since it may help to define the nature of a review at the
      present moment.

      Since the review came into existence with the newspaper, that history is a brief one.

      Hamlet was not reviewed, nor Paradise Lost. Criticism there was but
      criticism conveyed by word of mouth, by the audience in the theatre, by
      fellow writers in taverns and private work-shops. Printed criticism came
      into existence, presumably in a crude and primitive form, in the
      seventeenth century. Certainly the eighteenth century rings with the screams and catcalls of the reviewer and his victim. But towards the end of the eighteenth century there was a change—the body of criticism then seems to split into two parts. The critic and the reviewer divided the country between them. The critic—let Dr. Johnson represent him—dealt
      with the past and with principles; the reviewer took the measure of
      new books as they fell from the press. As the nineteenth century drew
      on, these functions became more and more distinct. There were the
      critics–Coleridge, Matthew Arnold–who took their time and their space;
      and there were the ‘irresponsible’ and mostly anonymous reviewers who
      had less time and less space, and whose complex task it was partly to
      inform the public, partly to criticize the book, and partly to advertise
      its existence.”

      In the end, it’s easy enough for me to side with the anonymously
      reviewing and reviewed, having recently received a largely positive and,
      more importantly, well-written (I’m especially fond of Jared Woodland’s
      apt unclassification of my “non-narrative stillnesses”) feature-length
      review (on the other hand, at 1100 words its only oddly longer than this
      comment, 700 words and–but who’s?–counting) of my latest little book
      in these very giant pages.

      Indeed, if an illustrious reader of this comment invited me, I would
      gladly respond, in kind and at equal length, to both Woodland’s review
      and to its subject, my latest miscellany, my so-called Microscripts, the
      most variously-sliced-up-or-torn-apart-book-apart-book-of-myself yet to
      appear in print.

  37. deadgod

      That was Pound?!  Weird, to see Pound so unconstructively uncomprehending – and so conventionally unconstructively uncomprehending – towards (I guess) Prufrock and Other Observations.  –and a badly sloppy review, if it’s of that book:  for example, Eliot does not “call[] the ‘observations’ poems”; he calls the poems “observations”.

      Here’s a review of Prufrock and Other Observations, signed (I think), that Pound certainly wrote for Poetry and republished in his Literary Essays .  It’s quite laudatory – as, to my knowledge, Pound always was towards Eliot:

      The reader will find nothing better [in English or French, since the death of Laforgue, than Mr. Eliot’s work], and he will be extremely fortunate if he finds much half as good.

      Ian, are you sure the anonymous review you’ve presented is by “Ezra Pound”??

  38. Robert Walser

      Writing sure has gotten harder. Apologies to Frau Woolf for the wonky formatting of her words: “Since the review…” belongs with the paragraph that follows.

      Also if I might be permitted one final application of what I’m told are called “scarecrow-quotes”, in reference to Mr. Thurston, for: critic’s cowardice, read: “critic’s” cowardice

  39. deadgod
  40. Ian keenan

      deadgod, it’s not! Your right. The page I went to had a that one after another Ezra Pound review, namely his positive review of Eliot in the Egoist the same month (June ’17), above it and it appeared to me to be a listing of Pound reviews.. you can see by the time indications I did that too quickly while caffeinating.

      I don’t recall Pound’s unsigned reviews appearing in an essay collection. I don’t know how many Pound bios I have here (a few) but the one I read cover to cover was Humphrey Carpenter’s, which in its 1005 pages never felt the need to call attention to the significance of an unsigned review by Pound in the TLS.

      Here’s another nice unsigned from that page (not Pound’s of course):

      5 July 1917, vol. lxxxiii, 107.

      Mr. Eliot is one of those clever young men who find it amusing to pull
      the leg of a sober reviewer. We can imagine his saying to his friends:
      ‘See me have a lark out of the old fogies who don’t know a poem from a
      pea-shooter. I’ll just put down the first thing that comes into my head,
      and call it “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock.” Of course it will be
      idiotic; but the fogies are sure to praise it, because when they don’t
      understand a thing and yet cannot hold their tongues they find safety in
      praise.’ We once knew a clever musician who found a boisterous delight
      in playing that pathetic melody “Only a Jew” in two keys at once. At first
      the effect was amusing in its complete idiocy, but we cannot imagine that
      our friend would have been so foolish as to print the score. Among a few
      friends the man of genius is privileged to make a fool of himself. He is
      usually careful not to do so outside an intimate circle. Mr. Eliot has
      not the wisdom of youth. If the ‘Love Song’ is neither witty nor amusing,
      the other poems are interesting experiments in the bizarre and violent.
      The subjects of the poems, the imagery, the rhythms have the wilful outlandishness
      of the young revolutionary idea. We do not wish to appear patronising,
      but we are certain that Mr. Eliot could do finer work on traditional lines.
      With him it seems to be a case of missing the effect by too much cleverness.
      All beauty has in it an element of strangeness, but here the strangeness
      overbalances the beauty”

  41. Henry_fry

      wow – this got totally epic.

  42. Ian keenan

      My concerns in general is that the unsigned review unleashes an establishment critique that allows the two-facers to have it both ways when they used to fret that the candid may accumulate some career advantage, and clearly the nom de plume has been used for that purpose, probably quantitatively more often than whatever use it has for a Woolf or a George Eliot (good to see Coleridge agrees with me, I always liked that guy).  The fact that all of the examples Kent Johnson cites are from England and none of them are from the US, France or Germany (to cite a few places, and in contrast to his claim that nom de plumes are so important to world lit) can be attributed to which book he is copying his information from, but it may indicate that this is a centuries old British practice that was standardized later by the TLS which Kent is trying to import to the states, and Silliman’s critique of his US poetry establishment bogeyman as the spiritual heirs of 19th Century Britain (channeling Poe) would relate to this, if you accept the logic that the culture that compels people to be “yellow” about their reviews was standardized along British lines, so the practice of the unsigned review was sure to follow. Needless to say there are a lot of good UK lit imports then and now but certain tendencies of the old Oxbridge set wouldn’t seem be one of them.

  43. Caleb Powell

      In other words…”anonymous” = “pseudonym” = Amazon book review. You write: “protect against the burning of bridges in the lit community”

      It’s a good idea, but more writers should not fear burning bridges. Anonymity does not interest me, unless the writer has a genuine fear (political, domestic violence). I can’t respect writers that hide in anonymity so they can knock other writers they otherwise would not.

  44. Friday Lit Roundup

      […] HTMLGiant would like your anonymous reviews. […]

  45. Friday Lit Roundup | Specter

      […] HTMLGiant would like your anonymous reviews. […]