One of the most frustrating and liberating classes I took in graduate school was on the art of the review. To that point, I don’t recall ever feeling as though I was qualified to review anything more than maybe a Simpsons episode. Nor do I ever recall paying much attention to reviews as acts of writing–they served a public need about other people’s writing and gave my urges to read some sense of direction (“read this Dave, not that Dave,” or what have you). I read a lot of reviews that semester–art, literature, movies, anything I could get my hands on. Around that time, Dale Peck wrote this review of author Rick Moody’s…work, which famously began, “Rick Moody is the worst writer of his generation.” Since then, I’ve read reviews with a different eye. They can be as entertaining and artful as the subjects they critique. Our professor that semester told all of us would-be authors that getting torn up by another respected author was a kind of feather in your cap. Tomorrow, The Omnivore awards their Hatchet Job of the Year to “author of the angriest, funniest, most trenchant book review of the past twelve months.” They are all good, you can read them here, and tip a pint to those brave authors who took a real big feather right in the cap for their troubles.
Feb 6 2012