Tuesday, March 13, 2007

I just sent back one like this, marked RE DO

I know it's trendy to knock Michiko Kakutani, but, honestly, her column today about two new biographies of Leni Riefenstahl was just the laziest kind of reviewing. In a favorite Times technique, she spends most of her space restating the scoop on Riefenstahl she read in the books she was reviewing, in a tone that implied she already knew this stuff. She devotes one very brief paragraph to comparing a single difference between the two authors' points of view. She makes no evaluative judgment of either book, let alone vis a vis each other. I have no idea what one book does differently from the other; I have no idea which one I would rather read. Why review a book if you're not prepared to give an opinion? Why review two together on the same subject if you're not going to compare them?

5 comments:

Anonymous said...

how often do you read the NYT? if you read it regularly you wouldn't have been surprised by that review!

Roger Sutton said...

All the time but not usually her. I'm interested in Riefenstahl so I took notice.

Keir said...

In one of the first book reviews I ever wrote, I was asked to provide 2,000 words on two similarly themed books. Anxious to do a good job, I read the books slowly, underlining and making copious notes. I labored over a piece that evaluated the quality of the books and the similarities and differences between them. I quoted extensively. The editor gave it back and told me he wanted a creative essay that was 80% me and 20% about the books. So there's another approach that some people favor.

Roger Sutton said...

I like 80-20 with the odds in favor of the book. But that 80 includes the reviewer-in-the-book, if I might coin a phrase. Old Michiko just did a book report. It was the work of a grind--I bet she got all As, all the time, but had no friends.

rindawriter said...

I am SO glad I was never taught how to do a book review or book report in my schooling! No wonder they are so much fun to write now...WHAT a way to kill a child's interest in reading new things...