Tag Archive | National Book Award

What’s in a review?

Interesting article on book reviews

“I never read a book I must review,” quipped Oscar Wilde, “It prejudices you so.” Aggrieved authors everywhere nod their heads in knowing, useless triumph. For who but a reviewer pledged to willful Wildean ignorance could have decided, asThe Saturday Review once did, that The Great Gatsby is “an absurd story,” suggesting that “Mr. F. Scott Fitzgerald deserves a good shaking.” The rebuke might have sent old Scott to shaking another highball or three, though it won’t find many defenders today.

Tolstoy, too, must have been perplexed to learn, upon opening The Odessa Courier one afternoon, that Anna Karenina was “sentimental rubbish.” Or imagine Walker Percy’s surprise, not to mention dismay, when The New Yorker said of his novel The Moviegoer, which would go on to win the National Book Award: “Mr. Percy’s prose needs oil and a good checkup.” Meanwhile, across the street, The New York Times proclaimed Percy “a breathtakingly brilliant writer,” declaring The Moviegoer “believable and moving.”

The conspiracy-minded might suspect that Percy’s publisher bought a bigger ad in the Times, putting its foot on the scale. But though no human enterprise operates in a vacuum wholly absent quid pro quo, decent publications don’t do naked bartering like that anymore—though it was rampant up through the glory days of Hearst. Individual reviewers occasionally have scores to settle—or more often debts of gratitude to repay—but it’s a safe bet that the divergent opinions of The Moviegoer were held in earnest by their reviewers.

So what is the well-intentioned reader to do? What is a book review anyway? Who is it for? How much does it have to do with the book that inspired it in the first place—its ostensible raison d’etre?

Read the rest of this article:

Book Reviews: What We Talk About When We Talk About Books


Critic’s Notebook : Patti Smith

Patti Smith performing at Bowery Ballroom, New...

Image via Wikipedia

This notion, of a life consecrated to art, has become the stuff of cliché as we increasingly allow our dreams to be commodified: Where are the new bohemias, the new Williamsburgs or Echo Parks?

Patti Smith shines between art’s boundaries –

latimes.com http://ow.ly/3cnW8

Just Kids,” which won the National Book Award for nonfiction Wednesday night, is a reminder that Patti Smith has always had more than making records on her mind. Such a sensibility has defined her work since her debut album “Horses” came out in 1975, with its inexplicable mix of the garage and the atelier.

Indeed, her initial foray into music came at her first reading, in February 1971. “I did it for poetry,” she writes in “Just Kids.” “I did it for Rimbaud, and I did it for Gregory [Corso]. I wanted to infuse the written word with the immediacy and frontal attack of rock and roll.”

If “Just Kids” has a message, however, it’s that bohemia exists within us, that the only imperative of the artist is to create. Halfway through the book, Smith recalls a conversation with Corso, who, during a visit to the loft she shared with Mapplethorpe, noticed a crucifix embellished with the phrase memento mori.

Rocker Patti Smith takes nonfiction prize

Patti Smith performing at Lollapalooza festiva...

Image via Wikipedia

Rocker Patti Smith takes nonfiction prize

– latimes.com http://ow.ly/3bHML

In accepting the award, and with e-books clearly on her mind, Smith echoed a call made by other winners in recent years. “There is nothing more beautiful in our material world than the book,” she said. “Please never abandon the book.”