Reviews in review

Slate’s Summary Judgment, written by Ben Williams, rounds up critical reaction to Truth and Beauty, with links. (Scroll down.)

Noteworthy reviews include one by Joyce Carol Oates in the New York Times, which I think does the nicest job of describing the book.

The Old Hag pegged Oates’ review for its “Steel Magnolias-cum-Drugstore Cowboy tone” — and she’s quite right, of course– but I must confess I liked it. Re-reading it I realize why: Oates doesn’t sound bored. Nor is she following the straight review tack of: A hook lede; a few paragraphs of flat-footed narrative summary; a graf about “what I like” followed by a graf about what “I didn’t like” (as if the best model for a review was the legal system, with justice weighing the scales); and then the final graf that synthesizes “the amount I liked it versus vs. the amount I didn’t like”; to arrive at: Should you buy this book?

This is why I didn’t mind so much when there was talk about cutting fiction reviews in the Times: Such is the nature of most of the paper’s criticism that I’ve only been reading the final paragraphs anyway. It goes very quick that way, and I figured they could probably get at least eight to a page.


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