All the World’s a Critic

The extracts below caught my eye as fine examples of the “insults, barbs and put downs” published in reviews.  – JWG

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“Sean Penn’s debut novel – repellent and stupid on so many levels” 

Sian Cain, 29 March, 2018
The Guardian

“The Oscar-winning actor’s first foray into fiction, Bob Honey Who Just Do Stuff, has met with derision online. But how bad can it be?… Penn doesn’t just swing and miss with his ambitious vocabulary; he swings and cracks a hole in reality as we know it, leaving us all unsure of the concept of a good sentence, how a novel should be structured and generally what makes sense any more… ”

Excerpts from “What the Cult of Knausgaard Tells Us About Critical Bias” 

by Becca Rothfeld, 28 April, 2015 

hyperallergic.com

“[Norwegian author Karl Ove Knausgaard’s My Struggle] … the book is worse than dull — it’s also insultingly self-indulgent… I suspect that so many critics have worshipped at the altar of Knausgaard because there’s something very enviable about his unshakable belief in his own value…

…the privilege of writing about oneself — of passing one’s vanity off as profundity — is reserved almost exclusively for male authors. It’s been said before, but it bears repeating: the likes of Knausgaard and Henry Miller get to prance around with cigarettes dangling out of their mouths, looking tortured and feeling congratulatory, because they’re men, and male sentimentality is “honest” and “vulnerable,” never whiny and egotistical…

… the very format of My Struggle remains a testament to his unshakable faith in his own significance.”

Read the whole article by Becca Rothfeld here

“Insults, barbs and put downs, all in a day’s work for a book reviewer”

by D.J. Taylor, 14 December, 2016

afr.com

“For the critic, even the critic of the latest B-plus-level novel, has two audiences: readers who want something to entertain them for the next couple of evenings, and that much more exacting long-term judge, posterity. It was Orwell, again, who pointed out that to do their job properly book reviewers need a spring balance simultaneously capable of weighing an elephant and a flea: some delicate mechanism that will enable them to advertise the true merits of a work that may capture the public imagination for a fortnight and gesture at the row of timeless classics that lie on the shelf behind it.”

 

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