Wednesday, 3 December 2008

A hiccup

Oh, a not-so-good review. Of the Hofmann/Lichtenberg book, in today’s Independent. ‘It’s a curious peek into his bedchamber, when we’d rather gaze down the abyss of his soul.’ Would we? ‘None of the voices synthesise into a whole.’ Odd sentence: does that mean not one of the individual voices synthesises, or the voices together don’t synthesise?

The book is wonderful: funny, wise, deeply affectionate. The reviewer’s loss. I’ve just realised that what really annoys me is not so much bad reviews of good books (there'll always be one), but starry-eyed reviews of pretentious dross. Which this is not.


Stephen Mitchelmore said...

The review is clueless. It upset me to read it this morning. It doesn't do the reviewer any credit.

As you say, what on earth does he mean about the voices? The novel's lightness of touch and respect for distance is, in part, what makes it unique and distinct. It's far greater than Fitzgerald's book and the Nabokov connection is irrelevant except for prurient hacks who - it seems - haven't heard of Hofmann let alone read his previous work.

No surprise the reviewer writes for Granta and Prospect Magazine. Literature has nothing to fear from either.

Anonymous said...

The Independent reviewer seems to have fallen into that most juvenile of traps: wanting something other than he is given and then basing his criticism around that unrealised desire.

You may give a child the most tasty bowl of rice-pudding the world has ever known, but if the child had wanted ice-cream to begin with, the rice-pudding will taste sour in his mouth.

Likewise the Lichtenberg book (as with all books) must be accepted for the thing it is, not for the something else one may have hoped for.

And then you may ask: did the author present well the aspects he chose to present? In this case: most certainly yes.

Mark Thwaite said...

Forgive me if I've already done this Charles, but I don't think I've brought your attention to my old review of the New Directions edition of the wonderful Lichtenberg which you can find here:

charles said...

Thank you all. Mark, yes, I saw your RSB review some time ago and should have posted a link myself. The review was a waste of space; and jesus, one works to get those spaces, in which books can find new readers. Otherwise it's word of mouth, which is no bad way but may need a few more words, a few more mouths. I believe Josipovici mentioned the book at a reading he gave in north London recently.