Review of reviewers

This blog needs feeding, so in 2014 I’m going to post a short review of every book I read. Handily, the (UK) Telegraph’s shortlist for its “Hatchet Job of the Year 2014” award provides a set of convenient examples of how I will not be reviewing books. I didn’t read the full reviews, because that would be horrible.

1. Craig Brown on Frederic Raphael and Joseph Epstein’s Distant Intimacy: A Friendship in the Age of the Internet

A newspaper book reviewer criticises a book for “bashing authors and artists more successful than themselves”.

2: Rachel Cooke on Ann Widdecombe’s Strictly Ann: The Autobiography

Is the device in which the reviewer poses a rhetorical question and then replies in the affirmative unbearably arch and tiresome? Yes. Special marks for use of hopeless archaism “Alas, […]”.

3: Lucy Ellman on Douglas Copeland’s Worst. Person. Ever.

Accuses author of “adolescent humour” in a sentence which contains the phrase “gross you out”. Arch, unfunny wordplay on title of work under review.

4. AA Gill on Morrissey’s Autobiography

Uses unforgivable reviewer cheat-code “tome”; compounds sin by qualifying it with the tautological adjective “heavy”. Enjoying AA Gill is like sucking up to the schoolyard bully: you’re a coward and he’s still a blockhead.

5. Peter Kemp on Donna Tartt’s The Goldfinch

Deadly reviewer-speak: “famously a decade in the writing”

6. Frederic Raphael on John Le Carré’s A Delicate Truth

“Le Carre affects, as so often, to be making daring revelations…” Sentence in which author is accused of affectation is itself ineptly affected.

7. David Sexton, Eleanor Cotton’s The Luminaries

“Catton never shows, she tells, wagging on in the most officious way.”


8. Herdley Twiddle on Paul Theroux’s Last Train to Zona Verde

As I detest Theroux I have no doubt that he deserved this. I can promise that no review of a Theroux book will appear on this blog, and that if I had been christened Herdley Twiddle I would write under a pseudonym, so as not to be upstaged by my own byline.


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