Friday, September 24, 2010
Kirkus a Dead Corpus?
Rumours of the death of Kirkus Reviews are apparently not exaggerated. While many writers are unhappy about the loss of a major reviewing vehicle, can't say I'm weeping. Of course it's personal. The Book of Dreams was panned by some unknown Kirkus critic. But it's also a matter of principle. There's something very wrong with anonymous criticism. Like blows to the genitals and stabs in the back, it's an act of cowardice. If you believe in your words, then stand by them. And needless to say, it allows for all kinds of abuse. Kirkus printed some pretty nasty pieces in its day. When I reviewed for John Banville at the Irish Times he once said to me, "if you can't say something good about a book, don't review it." I confess I learned from him that day as I had written some biting reviews myself for Books Ireland - but at least I put my name to them! The truth is there are no experts in this field. Critical history shows us many a classic that was savaged in its day. (Moby Dick comes immediately to mind.) No matter what critics insist, reviewing is entirely subjective and reviews always say more about the reviewer than they say about the reviewed. Rest in peace, Kirkus. I think this could be classified as a little dance on your grave.