Saturday, January 24, 2009


Review mirrors

So, I just wrote a book review for a state history journal. An actual perfesser of some sort also has reviewed this book in the American Historical Review Journal.

I purposefully did not read the AHA Journal review until I'd finished my own next-to-last draft.

I just read the AHA Journal review, and was surprised at how little the reviewer actually engaged the book as a book. He basically summarized it, and concluded with a negative observation.

Sheesh. Once again I am reminded that academic credentials and academic station indicate little about academic ability -- although my fellow reviewer's ability to distill a book into a smooth gloss is greater than mine, at least in this instance.

But, truly, someone generally familiar with the outline of the subject, time and place could have read the intro and concluding paragraphs of each chapter, skimmed the text for upper-case words and proper nouns, and written the other review -- just like a college kid.

See, I think a book review usually should not only summarize an author's work, but do so following the same outline as the author, which necessarily makes a review a little clunky, if you refer directly to chapters or sections anyway, as I do -- which means my reviews are a little clunky.

Interestingly, where he appeared to praise the style, calling it "fine writing," I suggested that it was too compacted given the subject matter, a negative -- which actually is another way of saying the same thing. I thought the writing needed to breathe, although I admitted I saw no ready way to air it out without cutting important material.

And, and, I am 99-percent sure there is a basic, grievous, error of fact in the book -- the misnaming of a famous person, thrice! -- and he did not catch it and I did.

Of course, I will make double-dog-damn sure I'm right before I reveal that the author is wrong.


You don't have to be a mindless egalitarian or Luddite to believe that the effect of "expertise" tends to overestimated, not only but especially that based on credentials and position, not only but especially focused on issues of judgment rather than knowledge.
Howdy, Paul. Yep. Thanks for stopping by. Come back anytime.
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