Sunday, December 04, 2005

A Book Reviewer Who Doesn't Know the Definition of 'Book Review'

Stuart K. Hayashi

Jenny Turner was supposed to review the book Ayn Rand by Jeffrey Britting for the London Review of Books (referral from Rockwell; 11/3/05).

What Ms. Turner wrote can hardly be called a book review. You can see right on the top what the assigned subject was:

Ayn Rand by Jeff Britting [ Buy from the London Review Bookshop ] · Duckworth, 155 pp, £12.99

Yet, in this humungous mess belched out by Ms. Turner, we find that, out of all 49 of its paragraphs, Britting's book is only mentioned in three of them . . . in passing.

And in those three paragraphs, there are barely any references at all to Britting's writing style, to the manner in which he organized ideas, or in his presentation. Ms. Turner cares not to inform us whether this book is easy or difficult to read, whether it is worthy of interest by the general public or not, or whether it had any good or bad points.

You would expect the London Review of Books to notice that a book review's purpose is to assess the quality of work done by the author of the book being reviewed: in this case, the job Jeff Britting did with his book -- the one this publication claims to be reviewing, remember?

Turner's essay is a sham from the get-go, because it cannot be considered a book review by any reasonable standard. Instead, it's a review of Ayn Rand's reputation. Rather than address the quality of Jeff Britting's book, this "reviewer" launches a screed against the tome's subject.

Excuse, me, Ms. Turner, but if I wrote a book about Napoleon, you're supposed to talk about how well I wrote the book; not about how much you like or hate Napoleon.

Somebody needs to inform Jenny Turner and the London Review of Books that the publication's name isn't London Review of People. How difficult is it to understand that a book review is actually supposed to review a book?