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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 18, 2008 3:59 pm
My goodness, are good reviews bad?
Posted by: Keir Graff

In the New York Times Sunday Book Review, Joe Queenan takes the unusual position that his own book, My Goodness: A Cynic’s Short-Lived Search for Sainthood, was overpraised (“Enough with the Sweet Talk“).

This brings us to the least-discussed subject in the world of belles-lettres: book reviews that any author worth his salt knows are unjustifiably enthusiastic.

Actually, he spends half the space complaining that nearly all book reviews are far too favorable, perhaps channeling the spirit of a younger Dale Peck. Entertaining enough, although you can have the too nice/too mean argument until books no longer exist and it’ll never get solved. I agree with the point that too many nice reviews makes it harder for people to find the really good stuff; I also agree that there’s not a lot of point in just bashing something. The point of reviewing is to get the right stuff to the right people, not simply keeping people away from the bad stuff.


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