These are perilous times. For me. I’m a book reviewer. For the Sunday New York Times. Sam Tannenhaus, the editor there, often tells me I’m a stern critic. These weeks I’m a novelist with a new book out. That makes me a vulnerable maniac convulsed with fear. Word has come to my publisher that someone–I don’t know who yet–has reviewed my novel for NYTBR. The publication date is Feb. 21st. A week from tomorrow. But because publishers get the reviews early, I’ll see the review possibly as early as Monday.
Luckily, I’ll be in Madrid. That means I can run wailing and gnashing my teeth through a large metropolitan area and no one will recognize me.
Some authors I’ve reviewed will think this is justice. I do know, every time I review, that I will be grist one day myself. So I dig in with any book I review. Someone spent years of their life on a book. I spend at most a month with it. But I do read it, annotating every page on a legal pad that often goes to 30 or more pages handwritten. I read all the author’s previous works. I read other books similar to the author’s book. So why don’t I put on my cheerleader hat, as the book reviewers at The Believer? Because I believe that then all praise becomes meaningless. And some authors’ efforts are so great, their work so remarkable, they deserve praise that has meaning. Yet, I confess, I thoroughly enjoy The Believer and read it regularly. Just because I don’t adhere to their philosophy doesn’t mean I don’t think there’s room in the world for approaches other than mine.