Suspend Your Disbelief

Posts Tagged ‘criticism’

Essays |

Owl Criticism

From the Archives: In this 2011 essay, Baxter writes that a trustworthy review has “a kind of doubleness: the reviewer manages to assert somehow that the book under discussion is of some importance for one reason or another; and second, a good review provides a formal description of the book’s properties, so that you could reconstruct it from the reviewer’s sketch of it.”


Shop Talk |

Brillo Books

“In The Universe of Click it’s more important to have someone saying ‘I loved it!’ than ‘The notion intrigued me, but I was unmoved by the pleonastic ramblings on page 94.’ A review is somehow less decisive than the perception that someone has liked something and passed it on to friends and acquaintances on Limped-In, Face-Schmuck, Mumbler, and Fritter…”


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Shields and Cooperman’s Very Brief Apocalypse

David Shields is a very lucky man. I think that most of us, when we enjoy something that everyone else seems to hate (or when we dislike a thing that they all love), feel a twinge of nervousness, a quiver of doubt. Perhaps we feel superior and isolated at the same time, wondering why we, in this case, appear so separate from the crowd. Not David Shields. One of the most notable qualities of both his 2010 book Reality Hunger, and his recent essay, “Life is Short: Art is Shorter,” co-authored with Elizabeth Cooperman, in the Feb 2013 issue of […]


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Banana Slicers and Michael Jackson's Rapid Response Team to Media Attacks

Two years ago, I invited Charles Baxter, Stacey D’Erasmo, Gemma Sieff, and Keith Taylor to join me on an AWP panel in DC to discuss the future of book reviewing and criticism, as well as their own work with The New York Review of Books, The New York Times, Harper’s, and the Los Angeles Times, respectively. It seemed a pressing question to ask at a time when newspapers were shuttering and what print publications remained were either eliminating or drastically reducing their book coverage, while at the same time the Amazon.com review was reaching near ubiquity. What would criticism look […]


Essays |

We’re in love. It’s complicated.

Marriage is so last century. Natalie Bakopoulos contemplates the demise of the marriage plot and Jeffrey Eugenides’s complex, undermining revival of it in his aptly-titled novel, The Marriage Plot. Is love still the ultimate trump card? Dear reader, it is. With some qualifications.


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Why Teach Book Reviewing? or, How Penn State Graduate Students Become Responsible Literary Citizens: a guest post by Robin Becker

Editor’s note: As part of our focus on teaching this month, we’re delighted to present this guest post by Robin Becker. “To stimulate, to argue, to celebrate, to explain, to describe, to amuse, to popularize new ideas, to keep the conversation going—these are part of the job and a large part of the ideal to which any good book reviewer will always aspire.” –John Gross, New York Times Book Review Editor; editor of the special 100-year anniversary issue of the NY Times Book Review I designed the graduate seminar The Writer as Critic: Reviewing Contemporary Poetry, Fiction & Non-Fiction (English […]


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Critics on Criticism

Criticism has never been an easy field, but now there’s a new risk: legal action. New York University law professor Joseph Weiler is being sued for running an negative book review. Writes Weiler: Last week, for the first time I found myself in the dock, as a criminal defendant. The French Republic v Weiler on a charge of Criminal Defamation. […] As Editor-in-Chief of the European Journal of International Law and its associated Book Reviewing website, I commissioned and then published a review of a book on the International Criminal Court. It was not a particularly favorable review. You may […]


Essays |

Some Thoughts on Reviewing Poetry in 2011

In the final essay in our series on criticism, Keith Taylor recalls the pleasure of a “chance to review a new collection of poems in a place where several thousand people might read it, and to actually be paid something for our labors.” Has the Internet created room for “a more expansive tone to the discussion of contemporary poetry” – or made an already diminishing realm more clubby? Taylor’s experience as both poet and reviewer reveals the shaping potential of creating art and criticism.


Essays |

An Education in Book Reviews

Third in our series on criticism, Stacey D’Erasmo’s essay tackles the misconception that reviewing “is, at best, a career opportunity and, at worst, a distasteful and potentially troublesome task best avoided.” In particular, she addresses the fact that the culture of the MFA program may have steered fiction writers away from the craft of reviewing. Yet she urges us to remember that many of our greatest writers were also critics who engaged in the vigorous cultural conversation that centers on books. And that it’s not only necessary for us to revive this discussion, but also a pleasure to be involved.




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