Monday, May 07, 2007

Messing With The Critics' Reviews

The New York Times had an interesting article last Sunday on critics being misquoted. It was titled "Literary Misblurbing."

A number of critics told stories in which their reviews had been deliberately twisted to give a different impression from the one they'd intended. The Time magazine critic, Lev Grossman, described an incident in which he had reviewed Charles Frazier's novel Thirteen Moons, saying "Frazier works on an epic scale, but his genius is in the details." A full-page newspaper ad for the book attributed the single word "Genius" to him.

Critic Bernard Cooper complained that a positive review of his had the word "Bravo!" added to it without his permission.

I was amused to find the article created a hierarchy of unethical practices. Here they are from worst to least offensive:

1) "Changing or adding words is the topmost offense."
2) "Taking words or sentences out of context is one level down."
3) "[E]xtracting the sole positive comment from a negative review is at the bottom."

Some people seem more perturbed than others about this subject. Here's one chilling incident:

At least one reviewer has taken an even more direct approach to the problem. Christopher Lehmann-Haupt, The Time's daily reviewer for 32 years and now an author himself, recalls being quoted in an advertisement for a book from the publisher
Donald I. Fine in a way he felt wasn't "kosher." He ran into Fine at a party and told him, "Back off if you want your books reviewed by me anymore." Lehmann-Haupt says, "He got the message."

You can read the entire article here.

Read on. It's a two-blog day.

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