Monday, December 31, 2012


Laura Miller talks to Daniel Mendelsohn about the ethics of the negative review.

I have a very slight cold and (unrelatedly) got barely any sleep last night, but on the other hand I got several important errands done today, including one I was slightly dreading (taking 'new' used bike and case down to Sid's Bikes on the subway for them to pack it up for Saturday travel - my aversion to traveling on the subway with cumbersome things is sufficient that I went so far as to read the packing instructions and contemplate undertaking the disassembly project myself, before coming to my senses and deciding it had better be left to the professionals!).

Almost finished with the first volume of My Struggle. It is curiously and inexplicably mesmerizing, like the charismatic teenage love child of Proust and Thomas Bernhard!


  1. I'm very sympathetic to Mendelsohn's remarks re: panning things no one is going to read and also re: G. Eliot. But I do think they are slightly off in dismissing twitter because "thoughtfulness" (as distinguished from epigrammatic tartness) is overrated. The best one-liners (re the excursion, "this will never do") are evocative with a precision that pages and pages of conscientious maundering cannot achieve, though obviously both are necessary... I think your description of My Struggle did about as much to _place_ it, for me, as any of the reviews I've seen. (Charismatic and teenage bad, Proust and Bernhard good, but I cannot imagine reading a Bernhard novel much longer than any of his...)

  2. 1. I really liked this - reviewing is for readers, not authors; but reviewers have a duty not to be cavalier with people's livelihoods. I once sat next to someone at dinner who joked about how she wasn't paid enough to read the books she reviewed. I was reviewing books for pitiful money at the time, but I knew what I was being paid when I accepted the work. I still basically hate this person. (I really don't hate people. I can't think of anyone I hate. I only hate this person because I don't know her and can't remember her name.)

    2. I thought: Lance Armstrong's It's Not About the Bike has not been written about much as a fake memoir, that I have seen. He won a quite big prize for it in the UK. It's about the only prize that hasn't been taken away from him. I know the guy who came second. He has quite conflicted feelings about this.