An intersting article in the NY Times book section describes a battle between two philosophers over a book review. You see, one philosopher really flamed the other's book in a journal. And I mean flamed.
According to the article, he called the book, "painful to read, poorly thought out and uninformed.” And he said that the review as printed was actually toned down after his editors asked him to make it less critical. Yikes!
Since philosophers are involved, of course they are thinking deeply about the controversy, wondering, What is the meaning of life? Oops. I mean, What is the meaning of the book review? :) The article only touches briefly on the question of whether such scathing reviews should be published. But I think it's an interesting
one for writers to discuss. What do you think?
I think that of course the reviewer's opinion should be front and center--that's what they're getting paid for. But I also think that reviewers and editors should really think carefully about what kinds of books they are assigned. In this case, the philosophers were from totally different schools of thought. Did that influence the reviewer's opinion of the book? Who knows. But it's something to consider.
I remember a professor of mine at Harvard got a letter to the editor published in the Times responding to a Michiko Kakutani review. In it, she had slammed a book by a friend of my prof's. I forget the specifics, but the book was of a genre that Kakutani always slams, so my prof suggested that maybe someone with a more open mind to that type of book should've reviewed it.
Something to ponder... Let me know your thoughts!