Re: RARA-AVIS: Re; Critics again

MT (
Mon, 05 Apr 1999 01:05:44 -0800 I see no problem or conflict in writers reviewing other writers. In
fact, this is standard practice in some publications, such as the New
York Review of Books. John Updike has written some of his best stuff for
the NYRB; in fact, while I no longer care for his fiction, his book
reviews are models of their kind. He always shows sympathy and respect
for a fellow writer, even when writing a clearly unfavorable review; and
he reads and thinks about the books he reviews, as is evident from his
very detailed discussion of the various aspects of each work. He also
carefully distinguishes between fact and opinion -- an essential
component of an honest and fair review.

On the other hand, I would not want to be without Mark Twain's review of
Fenimore Cooper, possibly the most murderous mauling a famous author has
suffered at the hands of another famous author. But if I wanted to learn
what Cooper's novels were all about, I would rather have Updike tell me
about them.

To get back to mysteries: I don't often read reviews, since I prefer to
draw my own conclusions and get most of my recommendations by word of
mouth (for example, from this list). My complaint about the occasional
reviews that I do read is that most of them are simply a summary of the
book, with a blurb-like "thumbs up" or "thumbs down" final paragraph. I
like to see an author placed in perspective within the genre, and
compared or contrasted with other authors. Again, I am a very casual
reader of mystery reviews and for all I know I may be missing all the
good ones.


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