Remember Goodby to All That? The essay on book reviewing that I told you about last week? Sure, you do.
One of the author's points was that there is a movement toward shorter reviews, which does not give a good critic much space to really analyze a book. He argued for longer reviews. At Critical Mass, I just found a response to that. Michael O'Donnell says, "...rigorous writing—rigorous thinking—is concise, not stretched out, corpulent, flabby. I'll take a lean review, spare as a runner headed round a quarter-mile track. I know I can't be alone in disagreeing with the notion that it takes 2500 words to express an idea, or in feeling a little impatient with those writers who are too grand to pick the important things, say them, and then stop."
No, Mr. O'Donnell, you are not.
While I was reading Wasserman's essay I wondered about the desirability of a lot of long book reviews, too. I wasn't thinking so much of the quality of the writing as I was of my lack of time. (O'Donnell also points out that he's a busy guy.) Even if we all had all the time in the world, there's supposed to be 150,000 books published every year. The reality is that in order to be exposed to as many titles as possible so that I can make decisions about reading as many books as possible, I can't sit down and read too many term-paper length reviews. In fact, since I prefer not to read detailed reviews until after I've read a book, I like something short to make me aware titles are out there, what they're about, and a little bit of the reviewer's impression of the quality.
Now, I realize that reviewing is actually an artform, a type of writing. I should be reading them for something other than my own selfish purposes. I shouldn't be using them to seek out some other type of writing (books) that I want to read. But, well, life is short. The reality is that I have to seek out shorter reviews.
Reviewers really do have it rough. I actually read books, and look what a poor attitude I have.