Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Reviewing the reviewers

I enjoyed Englishman Max Hastings’ piece in the Australian last month about the ‘wetness’ of book reviews compared to those firey reviews that appear in film or art pages. Book reviewers, he says, do not provide consumers with ‘clear guidance about whether a book is worth their money.’ Instead, they mostly relate the plot, big-note themselves or praise so tepidly that it hardly matters. He goes on to suggest a star-rating system for books rather like the one that appears in this organ. ‘This may be vulgar,’ he admits, ‘but it would oblige critics to offer clearly comprehensible verdicts to prospective purchasers.’ Vulgar or not, I’d like to see it. We might even return to the days when good reviews actually sold books.

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