How to be a Book Reviewer

Who are they kidding?

Who are they kidding?

I used to dream of being a book reviewer.  In my fantasy life, I’d hang out in a hammock with sun leaking through palms, my book always in hand. There would be no lack of great reading due to the piles of books I’d be asked to review for every good literary publication on the market. Once a book was read, I’d handily whip off a few enlightened paragraphs that inevitably, once published, would cause no small amount of grinning or weeping at the author’s house. And, hey, this is my fantasy, so the checks were always princely and always on time. 

So, who are these people who wound up with my dream job? Especially when every review they write is literally glowing and full of accolades about the author’s style, panache and wit. No matter that the book stinks! Heap praise on the writer and his candid style. Why is it that almost every book review written about a book is a good review? Especially when I can attest that most books are not really all that great. Good, maybe. But great? Rarely. Who are these people?  And what are they doing with my job??

Want to be a book reviewer? Just pull out your dictionary to find alternate words designed to dress up mediocre writing efforts. Then, recommend these so-so books to the public, gleefully and wholeheartedly as  “the greatest book I’ve read all year” or “surely one of the best books of the decade” or, even worse, “I stayed up all night reading it”. After all, what does the public know about good books?

Joe Queenan wrote a great article about the absurdly optimistic reviewer here. I think he hits the nail on the head – or, uh, the reviewer on the nose – well, you know what I mean. Joe’s own memoir, “Closing Time”, is due out in April. Wonder who’s doing that review…

Pessimistically yours, Karen


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