Too Mean? Some Find Book Reviewers Overprotective


By Neal Comment

Yesterday, I asked you how critical book reviewers should get, and at least one person on the discussion board thinks that things among the literati have gotten a little too cozy. “GraceVictoria” says that she once wrote a negative review of an established author whose latest book was, she felt, “third-rate and shallow,” then met a woman who had just given the same book a positive review in the NY Times. Confronted on the critical disconnect, the Times contributor agreed the book wasn’t that hot, but reportedly said, “[This writer] deserves support in her career, and if you read my review carefully, you’ll see that I really don’t critique the book itself very much.” And it was so! Then “Metro Writer” admits to exactly that sort of softball throwing on a review assignment: “I wrote a kind review on a book I didn’t particularly like,” this commenter reveals, “because I knew his wife was dying of cancer while he was writing it. If I were in his shoes, I wouldn’t be doing my best writing, either.” (Fine, one might ask, but what are you doing here, a book review section or group therapy?)

There’s also a mini-debate over whether the reviewing community has been giving Bridge of Sighs a critical pass because everybody loves Richard Russo, to which Washington Post reviewer Ron Charles points out that he found plenty to complain about in the novel.