Monday, July 12, 2004

Interesting discussion going on today over on Sarah Weinman's Gumshoe Award-winning blog. The topic is Patrick Anderson's pan in the Washington Post of Kevin Wignall's new book For the Dogs.

Here's the end of the first paragraph from Anderson's review:
In my experience, if a novel starts off badly, it isn't likely to turn into "The Great Gatsby" on Page 35, and if one starts off really well, there's a good chance it will stay that way. But there are exceptions. Take for example Kevin Wignall's second novel, "For the Dogs."

Sarah's take on it was that the review was lazy, gives away far too much of the plot, and doesn't justify its positions. I didn't see it quite as harshly, though. (Admittedly, Kevin is a friend of Sarah's, which probably affects her reaction. I know it does mine when I read reviews of my friends' books.)

I don't think it's that bad of a review. Or, more precisely, I don't think it's a particularly unfair one. I don't read all of Patrick's reviews, but I believe he's a fair critic. He didn't care for the book and he does give some reasons why. That's legitimate, even if it is painful to read. He says the plot is improbable, he doesn't buy the hit man character, the ending is over-the-top. Maybe he's wrong (dunno -- haven't read it yet) but that all seems fair enough.

I do agree with Sarah that he gives away much too much of the plot. I hate that. But a lot of reviewers do it, especially when they're filling out a whole column with just one book. On that basis, it's a lousy review. But the rest of it seems okay to me.

I would be loathe to slam an unknown writer like this... but I don't think everyone has to hold to the same code that I do.

The upside is that it's still a long review in a major publication -- far, far better than silence!

Here's the blurb that I'm sure Kevin's publisher will pull from the review:

"Nicely told. The writing is smooth, taut, understated, unsentimental." --Washington Post

You could do a lot worse!