Monday, 14 November 2005

How (not) to write book reviews

One of the most delightful recent novels is Susanna Clarke’s Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell (London: Bloomsbury, 2004)—an extraordinarily gripping, clever and humorous book, and perhaps one the finest of all fantasy novels.

In one scene that many scholars will find all too familiar (pp. 112-13), Mr Lascelles advises the magician Mr Norrell to publicise his opinions about magic by writing book reviews for the Edinburgh Review.

But Mr Norrell objects: “I really have no desire to write reviews of other people’s books.... [I]t is my own opinions which I wish to make better known, not other people’s.”

“Ah, but, sir,” said Lascelles, “it is precisely by passing judgements upon other people’s work and pointing out their errors that readers can be made to understand your own opinions better. It is the easiest thing in the world to turn a review to one’s own ends. One only need mention the book once or twice and for the rest of the article one may develop one’s theme just as one chooses. It is, I assure you, what every body else does.”

1 Comment:

Dave K said...

Ahh that is so, so true.

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