Sunday, March 22, 2009

Come, Thou Book Reviewer

I have many pet peeves in regard to book reviewing, and one of the larger ones is referring to the dust jacket. I cannot think of a lazier maneuver. If you have 800 words or so to talk about 400 pages of novel, why waste time talking about superficial wrapping paper. It’s akin to commenting on the trailer when doing a film review. (link) I understand judging a book by its cover, but not by the words on the dust jacket, surely:

* I disagree with the book jacket's assertion that it may be a “small mystery,” and I'm puzzled by the assertion in the publicity materials that its main narrator, Audrey Flowers, is “IQ-challenged.”

* It immediately becomes clear that the book jacket has failed to adequately synopsize Audrey's (and Winnifred's) adventures.

* Certainly there is much more going on in this book than the “small mystery,” or Uncle Thoby's eventual decampment for England, which the jacket describes as being the central events of the narrative.

Another pet peeve is overabundant praise:

Come, Thou Tortoise had me from Word One.

Referring to my copy of said novel, I see that Word One is: “The.”

Cue the Monty Python:

And the crowd goes quiet now as Hardy settles himself down at his desk, body straight, shoulders relaxed, pen held lightly but firmly in the right hand, he dips the pen in the ink and he’s off! It’s the first word, but it’s not a word, oh no, it’s a doodle way up on the left-hand margin, it’s a piece of meaningless scribble and he’s signed his name underneath. Oh dear, what a disappointing start! But he’s off again and here he goes, the first word of Thomas Hardy’s first novel at 10.35 on this very lovely morning, it’s three letters, it’s the definite article and it’s "the," Dennis.

(Voice of Dennis) Well, this is true to form, no surprises there. He’s started five of his eleven novels to date with the definite article. We’ve had two of them with "it", there’s been one "but," two "ats," one "and" and a "Dolores.” Oh, that, of course, was never published.

(Globe review as discussed above).

Full disclosure: (I reviewed the same book for the Star).