RARA-AVIS: Book reports

From: Robison Michael R CNIN ( Robison_M@crane.navy.mil)
Date: 11 Dec 2002

Richard Moore wrote about my post on I MARRIED A DEAD MAN: Actually, miker, almost your entire post was paraphrasing or quoting others'

opinions. The only opinion of your's I could find was that you disagreed with the broad condemnation of this book Mike Nevins in his biography as you

found the writing hauntingly lyrical even though you had problems with other

aspects. For what it is worth I would like to read more of your opinions than a bio-biblio background.

*********** You are correct, of course. The reference to the book being similar to Poe's "Fall of the House of Usher" was mine, al- though I'm sure that similar references can be found. And the comment you mentioned about, "Although I wasn't enamored with the plot, the characters, or the heavy-handed melodrama, I still found his prose to be hauntingly lyrical."

I made some other comments a few months ago and didn't feel the need to repeat them. I guess even then I paraphrased myself a bit. So those two comments were really about the only thing I could add about the book. To be real honest, the girl's incessant whining and crying made me want to see somebody slap some sense into her, and I could add that the melodramatic drivel on the first few pages just about turned me away from the book, but because I know he's a classic I thought I needed to read it, if for educational purposes only.

But to tell the truth, I've been trying to step back a bit from the work and look at it from the big picture, so that limited my comments to the ones I made. I don't know exactly what roll personal prejudices play in a decent review. I recognize that there's a strong feeling towards just saying any damn thing you feel like saying, whether it's any kind of realistic appraisal of the work or not. I would refer you to Edmund Wilson's "Boys in the Back Room" essay. What you find in that essay is Edmund Wilson as Ellroy. The essay really isn't about the books he mentions; it's about Edmund Wilson and his big ego. And if he wants to flaunt his ego, that's perfectly fine with me. My complaint is that I learn little about the books.

This does not mean that I am afraid to knock out a scathing review. Search the archives for what I said about Iceberg Slim's PIMP. I still stand by every word of that. But I thought that the book warranted it. I felt my criticisms of it were an across-the-board level-headed analysis of the work.

But the added comments I made above about the melodramatic drivel and somebody smacking some sense into the girl feels too much like me as Edmund (in a very narrow sense, of course. I realize that Edmund is a great literary critic.).

And about the bio part. You will notice that when I review a book the plot summary is, compared to others, microscopic. That's me. I don't care for plot summaries much longer than a sentence. I'd rather spend the time finding out and relaying something about the author. Although I would like to say that I subscribe fully to Barthes's "Death of an Author" essay, the truth is that an author's life in relation to his works often- times is as revealing as the book itself.

I appreciate your request for more of my opinion and perhaps less background. I consider that a compliment, with the built-in criticism duly noted. If other's don't care for the biographical material, then I'll delete it from further posts.

As I reread the above I realize that a large part of it could be designated as bull. But it's the best I can do. I'll let it stand.

Thanks, miker


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