Thursday, June 28, 2012

how to compromise a review

The more talented an author and more worthwhile his or her works, the less need for hyperbole when writing a review.

Here's a review of a William Gaddis book by Cynthia Ozick:

review of Carpenter's Gothic

I empathize with Ms. Ozick. I have also written review things that are overstated. I am determined to reduce or eliminate such a tendency toward ridiculous hyperbole. I think it's harder to write without hyperbole. It's so easy to allow oneself to float off on a cloud of pretentious words. The irony is that these important reviewers (Ozick a big-time novelist herself) who choose inflated over sober terms shows a disrespect for language. What's also irksome is how certain reviewers are so thoroughly sucked into an insular literary world that expects and requires preposterously worded appraisals.

Get a load of these from her review:

"...should disclose Mr. Gaddis's terrifying artfulness once and for all."

"...omniscience thrown into the hottest furnaces of metaphor."

"Mr. Gaddis knows almost myth flies into being out of the primeval clouds of art and death and money."

"...the dazzling irruption...."

"He is a possessed receiver of voices, a maniacal eavesdropper, a secret prophet and moralizer."

Goodness gracious.

Having said what I said, I will also say this: Ms. Ozick's review overall is really excellent. She has read deeply into this novel (as opposed to close reading, which is a soulless intellectual exercise). She brings out things in such a way that I want to read this book. 

I just wish she hadn't compromised her mostly well-written review by sprinkling into it some overblown and fancy-pants sentences.

1 comment:

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