The Post-Book Review Age

Stieg Larsson: Swedish Narcissus

That’s a broad stabbing-filled review of the Millennium trilogy. Not just stabbing, but shredding the dead bodies and spitting on their dismembered bits too.

But guess what?

Even though her complaints are more of everything I’ve overheard from others — especially from @fakebaldur on Twitter — I still want to and intend to read those books!

So what purpose did it serve other than to let the reviewer stomp on the corpse of Stieg Larsson?

Yesterday at the Dear Author review site, there was a fracas over a line in a book review. The reviewer said a character made her want to “throw up.” The writer of the book jumped in with what was intended to be a humorous comment that backfired and created a mini-firestorm (the Dear Author site is great for providing such sideshows in its Comments).

Despite the review — and the behavior of the writer — there were Comments from people who said they would still read the book. Their minds weren’t swayed.

So what good do book reviews do? What purpose do they really serve?

I can understand a review if it’s dissecting a non-fiction book, pointing out flaws a writer made — and the reviewer is an expert in the field the book tackles.

But for fiction?

Here, by the way, was my reaction to a book just about universally praised, The Time Traveler’s Wife. My post title says it all, really: This Manuscript Should Have Never Been Published. It Should Have Been Shot To Death.

Writer Cliff Burns swears that Cormac McCarthy has talent. I couldn’t find any in McCarthy’s books if you held a gun to my head. So which of us is “right” or “correct” — me or Cliff Burns?

As for the Larsson books, if they’re that bad, I’ll find out on my own. But there might be aspects of them I wind up liking that would make me recommend them to others. So who would be “correct” here — me or the detractors?

I think beyond briefly recommending a book one way or the other, reviews are pretty much a waste of time to write and for people to read. People will like what they want to like.


The Atlantic: A Reader’s Manifesto

Previously at Mike Cane 2008:

Meta: Review Of A Book Review
Does The Internet Make Reviews Obsolete?
Discussion About Book Reviews


Filed under Books: General

5 responses to “The Post-Book Review Age

  1. Can’t speak of TIME TRAVELER’S WIFE–the title alone so turned me off I couldn’t so much as glance at the book without feeling my stomach contents roiling.

    Cormac McCarthy, like many good writers (David Foster Wallace, Colson Whitehead, Don DeLillo), divides readers, inspiring almost comically diverse reactions, depending on the person. I’m acquainted with many smart, well-read people and yet if you mention one or more of those names to them, they practically foam at the mouth in rage.

    What the Hell: I’d rather be a writer with literary chops who dares to offend half my audience than a crowd-pleaser with a fat bank account and the mentality of a whore.

    Keep writin’ ’em, Mike, your commentaries always have meat on their bones and good points to make (agree with ’em or not)…

  2. Pingback: The Post-Book Review Age « Mike Cane's xBlog | eBook Reviews

  3. Time Traveler’s Wife. A really fine book, which I loved. Cormac McCarthy is not a fave. But we are all entitled to our opinions. Haven’t read the Stieg Larsson books, but I intend to. In the end, it’s what they say in the theater: Doesn’t matter if they loved you or hate you, as long as they’re talking about you!

  4. Oh, and another book I loved that got seriously mixed reviews: The Passage. It had that same intensity I got from Time Traveler’s Wife, the feeling that I was living within the book while I was reading it.

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