A Weird Thing About Book Reviews

I read a bit of a review of Dan Brown’s new book the other day. It essentially said that it was highly entertaining but that it wouldn’t receive any literary awards.

Duh.

But it made me realize something that is uniquely stupid to book reviews. A book is rarely reviewed for what it is supposed to be. They are reviewed against all books. This is retarded.

You’ll never read an auto review about a mini-van that takes pains to explain how the child-hauler falls short in the quarter mile against a Ferrari.

You’ll never see a home appliance review of a clothes dryer that explains how it cooks toast like shit.

And, my guess is, that you’ll never read a review about a tennis racquet that makes a terrible canoe paddle.

But, when it comes to books, the reviews are approached in a manner that suggests every book is trying to outrace a Ferrari while making toast for a journey downriver.

Books are written for specific purposes. Not all are written with literary accolades in mind. I would think that most aren’t. If it’s a thriller, was it thrilling? If it’s a comedy, was it funny? You don’t have to point out to me that The Big Book of Fart Jokes has a lot of funny fart jokes but will never be considered for a Pulitzer because I have a pretty good idea already that the Pulitzer panel isn’t a big fan of fart jokes. I’ve gleaned that from, both, being alive and not being an idiot.

I don’t know why we’re so prize happy in this world. Heller said it best in Catch-22:

 Like Olympic medals and tennis trophies, all they signified was that the owner had done something of no benefit to anyone more capably than everyone else.
Yet most reviewers assume that every book was written with an award in mind. And you now what they say when you assume things—it makes you look like a big, dumb idiot.

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