Wednesday, 11 January 2012

bad reviews


An ancient book review is doing the rounds on Twitter. For obvious reasons, I hate the idea that reviewers look for books to savage and relish doing so, which some reviewers do. On the other hand, as an ex-reviewer, sometimes you have to say a book is useless. First duty is to your reader, second duty is to the author of the book you are reviewing. Sometimes, those savagings are both fair and fun. If you are scrupulous, reasoned and not malicious, I have no problem with that. This review is a terrific one, and contains the paragraph:

What sets Thackara apart is quite a simple fact. He can't write. After a while, the incredulous reader Thackara to play a game: to open the book at random and try and find a tolerable sentence. Save your effort - you will never win. Thackara is always ahead of you, with his uncanny knack for the not-quite-right word and the yer-what turn of phrase. "You could not see his parents' intricate cultivation, nor that the ball was in the Palazzo Farnese, just after the war." "Justin's friend was not in the courtyard, but the fountain was." "The Hanoverian battery commander, Egbert, was as delighted as a music conductor to show off for his guests behind the embankment wall." These examples are taken entirely at random. It is all at least as bad as this, and some of it is worse to an unspeakable degree.

Intrigued by this, I went to Thackara's Wikipedia page. Whoever is the main editor/writer of the page has given both sides of the story, up to a point. Now, I am not saying that Thackara has own edited his Wikipedia entry. But, in light of the above paragraph, I find the entry's style interesting:

Thackara’s work has received notable extremes of criticism and praise though not in equal measure and sometimes the negative critiques have been commented on. The basis of some disapproval of Thackara is that his language can become inhumanly exalted; his characters’ metaphysical conjectures weigh down the text; and the sprinkling of different languages requires a skill not found in most readers.

The description of the book in question is also, well, read it for yourself.

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