Monday, May 12, 2014

Negative Reviews: The Ultimate Literary Horror

There's a dull and tedious post on The Millions from Friday that pretends to be a review of a very carefully unspecified horrible recent book -- it may actually be a metafictional joke, deliberately vague in order to apply to any literary novel the reader wants it to. Either way, it's a chore to read and a puzzle to understand.

I started typing a comment there, but -- given that The Millions seems to think negatively reviewing something is a source of great trepidation, fear, and uncertainty -- I didn't want to burden them with the full force of my spleen and bile, which would certainly overwhelm their sensitive systems. Instead, here's what I wanted to tell them:
So...either this is a "joke" and there is no specific book Seidel is referencing -- in that case, this essay is pointless, since it's not even funny, and its point is trite to the point of meaninglessness. (Sometimes reviewers have ulterior motives! Shock! Horror!)

Or there is an actual book that Seidel loathed, but can't bring himself to give any real identifying details or explain what's so horrible about it -- and, in that case, this review cannot possibly stop any of us from reading that book.

As far as I can tell, either way, this piece of writing is utterly useless: stilted, roundabout, in love with its own cleverness. The prose is also so oddly phrased that I want to take the first letter of each word, just to see if that spells anything more meaningful.

There is nothing at all wrong with hating a book and saying so loudly -- even if "everyone else" seems to love that book. Seidel needs to grow up, realize that, and move on: if he wants to have opinions in public about things, he needs to honestly present his real opinions, and the reasoning behind them, not hide behind bafflegab and weasel words.

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