Sunday, May 15, 2005

I'm pretty sure

you won't be able to follow this link unless you are a TLS subscriber, but the several-months-old really excellent review (well, there are some criticisms, but really it was very good) of my academic book is now up in their subscriber archive. I basically agree with Charlie Williams, who recently explained why he won't be blogging about reviews of his new novel Fags and Lager (not out yet in the US, sad to say, but if you're a US reader not willing to splurge on Amazon UK shipping, you can order Deadfolk, its predecessor and the most charming serial-killer novel you will ever read, from Amazon US; this is a Light Reading favorite). Here's what Charlie says:

I'm not the kind of guy who does that. If it's a good review, it looks like I'm blowing my own trumpet. If it's bad, I'm wallowing in self-pity, or trying to look all nonchalant but failing, and just looking sad and damaged.

My accommodation with this is that I link to the bad ones as well as the good ones, I would feel like a complete wretch if I just linked to the good. Also if I link to a really bad one (no, I'm not quite enough of a masochist to link AGAIN to that awful Bookmunch review) I will get a few e-mails of consolation. Anyway, I can't resist pasting this good academic one in, however it reflects on my character (the review is by Paddy Bullan):

The Augustan culture of politeness was a response to the pervasive breakdown in public trust that followed the disintegration of the Stuart monarchy and the bloodless revolution of 1688. As Swift recognizes, it was also a symptom of that breakdown. Jenny Davidson is the first literary historian to think seriously about how this national crisis of confidence went on to distort Hanoverian culture for the best part of another century. Hypocrisy and the Politics of Politeness is a model of its type - a timely, tightly argued and restlessly provocative monograph. It identifies an unexpected trend running through the vast early-modern literature of politeness, civility and manners. The book begins with a succession of Augustan writers - Swift, David Hume, Edmund Burke - who asserted the dependence of civil society on codes of manners. Occasionally, a hidden bias within their arguments for civility betrayed them into making explicit defences of hypocrisy - usually elaborations on La Rochefoucauld's well-known maxim that "hypocrisy is a tribute that vice pays to virtue". Davidson's careful examination of these instances suggests that ruling-class Hanoverians secured their own privilege of inconsistency by excluding certain groups, particularly women and servants, from the right to doubleness. Everywhere she discovers fastidious calculations about what sort of person should be admitted within the gift of politeness.

The book itself is inordinately expensive, so I can't say I recommend buying it, but you can get it from a university library or else take a peek inside using Google Print.


  1. I read the review when it came out and wondered why there was never any mention of it on your blog. I think most of your readers read the blog because they think you're interesting and because they like you. It seems like a pretty big deal for an academic to get a good review in the TLS and its okay to post it (or mention it). Nobody will think you're a raging narcissist if you share good news. Congratulations.

  2. Thanks for the reassurance as well as the congratulations! No, seriously, I was always meaning to post it, but was waiting for it to come up on the TLS web archive, which has a long lag time.

  3. I also read the review when it came out and wondered the same thing. I think it's perfectly okay to toot your own horn; it's not as if you didn't work hard on the book! You deserve it, so there! (And I got that book too -- I plan to read it over the summer break).