Friday, November 22, 2013


One of the reasons I don't write book reviews, I mean besides lacking any authority to write them,

is that if you like a book and want to recommend it, you have to quote from it.  But first you have to choose the right lines to quote, the lines which, when they read them in your review, people are going to find worthwhile.  Lines which will convince people to buy the book.  Wouldn't that be your duty or goal as a reviewer?—

You can't just shower it with hyperbolic approbation: who's going to take your word alone for its merits, or my word if I wrote reviews—presumably there are reviewers whose word alone is a gold standard attesting to quality, but I certainly wouldn't be one of those reviewers.

But I constantly read reviews filled with laudatory assertions, reviews which then go on to quote lines that aren't intriguing or evocative or dazzling or meaningful or for that matter any good at all,

and that puzzles me.  Take this review I read today, of a book by a poet whose work I'm not familiar with, and which, after reading the lines quoted by the reviewer, I have no interest in pursuing.   

— here's a link to the review:

The reviewer gushes praise throughout, but the lines selected for quotation are laughably inept and flat, prosaic and just plain bad.   Every one of the lines quoted is banal at best.   I understand they're quoted out of context, but so what? 

Not one of them persuades me to look for this book, or to look for other works online or elsewhere by this author. 


Ideally I guess a reviewer would have space enough to quote whole poems, not just excerpts or snippets, or if online could link to whole poems—

I don't review books, but occasionally I recommend poems which I find exceptional, such as this one by Sampson Starkweather, which seems to me to be quite brilliant and well worth rereading:

Of course a commendation from me lacks any weight.  I hold no position of power in the PoBiz. You won't find blurbs by me on the backs of any books: no USA poet is crazy or stupid enough to want kudos from me on their CV.  No prestige can be conferred by my acclamation.  Nor can anybody's reputation be damaged by my disapproval—all the nasty notices I've posted about various poets on this blog haven't scratched their vaingloriousness one little bit.


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