Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Writing a review ...

Once again, I haven't much time, but -- since one of the points of this blog is to give a look at what goes on behind the scenes in my professional life -- I thought I'd write briefly about my latest experience of writing a review for my Sunday column. The book I reviewed for this coming Sunday is Daniel Hoffman's Makes You Stop and Think, a collection of sonnets written over the past 50 years.
After I blogged last night, I set about reviewing it. I had what I thought was a good lead, but then I got stuck. I knew what I wanted to say, but couldn't quite figure out how to say it, especially since nowadays there is premium on space and whatever you say you have to say as economically as possible. So, after trying on thing and then another, I took a long walk -- and things started to sort themselves out in my mind. By the time I got home, I was able to wtite the next few paragraphs. And then, as Pepys would say, to bed.
But if you start writing before you retire you are likely to have a restless night: The writing continues even while you sleep it seems. When you sleep, because you wake up often with ideas drifting through your head.
What made this book so hard to review is that it is so good. Good reviews are much harder to write than bad ones. If you don't like a book, there are usually any number of ways of taking aim and firing. But to get across why a book is good demands that you be as precise as you can -- and there's that problem of space: You can't begin to be thorough.
At any rate, I returned to the review at various times throughout the day and finished it this afternoon. Now, you would think that such a piecemeal approach would lead to something choppy. Actually, it turned out rather well, if I do say so myself, and Jeff Weinstein, my editor, seemed to get through it quicj=kly and easily.
And so, though I've had a long and difficult day, I also have a sense of accomplishment. Now I have to settle in with the next book I'm reviewing: Anne Rice's Christ the Lord: Out of Egypt.

1 comment:

  1. For me, it's just the opposite. I have a harder time writing negative reviews that I do positive ones. If I like a book, I'm usually able to say why without a lot of difficulty. But if I dislike a book, I find that I usually struggle to explain why it was bad in such a way that is still fair and justifiable.