A little Menken in the morning…

On of the book blogs I check out often is Of Books and Bicycles. In a recent post, Of Books responds to a post on a different blog — BlogLily — about book reviewing and feeling sheepish about criticizing someone who has put so much work into a book AND has gotten it published. A worthy read, of course, would be the list of rules for reviewers that John Updike wrote and is now posted at the blog of the National Book Critics Circle (I am member of the organization, by the way). But it is also good to review the words of HL Menken:

A book review, first and foremost, must be entertaining. By this I mean that it must be dexterously written, and show an interesting personality. The justice of the criticism embodied in it is a secondary matter. It is often, and perhaps usually, quite impossible to determine definitely whether a given book is ‘good’ or ‘bad.’ The notion to the contrary is a delusion of the defectively intelligent. It is almost always accompanied by moral passion. But a critic may at least justify himself by giving his readers civilized entertainment …. If he is a well-informed man and able to write decently, anything he writes about anything will divert his readers.


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