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Book Blog - Likely Stories, by Keir Graff - Booklist Online

Likely Stories

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Keir Graff and editors from Booklist's adult and youth departments write candidly about books, book reviewing, and the publishing industry

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Tuesday, November 13, 2007 4:03 pm
From the Department of But Tell Us What You Really Think
Posted by: Keir Graff

Most critics really liked Denis Johnson’s Tree of Smoke (Booklist certainly did, too; the book earned a star from the tough-minded Ben Segedin). But it’s always interesting to read the outlier reviews. After all, book reviewing would be pretty boring if we all agreed on everything. And, boy, does B. R. Myers disagree (“A Bright Shining Lie,” Atlantic Monthly):

When a novel’s first words are "Last night at 3:00 a.m. President Kennedy had been killed," and the rest of it evinces no more feel for the English language and often a good deal less, and America’s most revered living writer touts "prose of amazing power and stylishness" on the back cover, and reviewers agree that whatever may be wrong with the book, there’s no faulting its finely crafted sentences – when I see all this, I begin to smell a rat. Nothing sinister, mind you. It’s just that once we Americans have ushered a writer into the contemporary pantheon, we will lie to ourselves to keep him there.

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2 Responses to “From the Department of But Tell Us What You Really Think”
  1. Book Blog - Likely Stories, by Keir Graff - Booklist Online » Blog Archive » Johnson, Weiner, Hass, and Alexie Win the National Book Award Says:

    [...] The National Book Award winners have been announced. A somewhat controversial pick, Denis Johnson’s Tree of Smoke, is the fiction winner–giving our reviewer, Ben Segedin, the opportunity to say he called it. Fiction [...]

  2. Keir Says:

    A guy named Dave Lull sent me a link to another negative review, by Patrick Kurp for the Houston Chronicle:

    http://www.chron.com/disp/story.mpl/life/books/reviews/5114598.html


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