The Women Who Made an Art of Having an Opinion

8 May 2018

From The Guardian:

In recent years, the group biography has become a spirited mainstay of the publishing landscape: a means both of revisiting and reinterpreting already familiar times, people and places, and of bringing together between hard covers lives that might not be deserving of an individual doorstop. In Sharp, though, Michelle Dean has assembled not so much a group as a small crowd: her book, with its title that brings to mind suddenly puckered lips, has the feeling of a cocktail party at which several people drink too much, nearly everyone talks too loudly, and no one really likes anyone else. Through this gathering, she wanders, ashtray in one hand, dishcloth in the other. Dean relishes her guests’ bad behaviour – you might call her a little starstruck – but only to a degree. As the evening goes on, she will sometimes find herself apologising for them, these women who are so clever and talented, and yet so madly competitive, so stubbornly reluctant to attach the word “feminist” to their neon-bright names.

. . . .

Most began as journalists, making an art, as Dean’s subtitle has it, of “having an opinion”; some then went on to write acclaimed novels, and other kinds of books. Most of their names are well known: Hannah Arendt, Joan Didion, Nora Ephron, Mary McCarthy, Dorothy Parker, Susan Sontag, Rebecca West. Others, at least for British readers, may be less familiar: Janet Malcolm, whose singular, often controversial interviews appeared in the New Yorker; Pauline Kael, once the same magazine’s acerbic film critic; Renata Adler, the reporter whose home was also there until she put the literary equivalent of a bomb under her career. Dean gives each one about the same amount of attention, although it’s clear that she enjoys the company of some more than others. The playwright Lillian Hellman and the novelist and anthropologist Zora Neale Hurston, however, she collides with so fleetingly, they appear before the reader like gatecrashers or, more likely, additions to the guest list so embarrassingly last minute she can hardly bear to do much more than pour them their first sidecar.

What unites them, besides their trade and their talent? Dean talks, in her preface, of their remarkable achievements in a world that “was not eager to hear women’s opinions about anything”; of the way they roundly defied expectations. But there’s also the adjective of her title: sharp. People did not always respond favourably to the “sting” of their words. What would have seemed daring and deeply smart coming from a man appeared only haughty, inappropriate and unkind when served up by a woman.

. . . .

Didion, in her tiny dresses, her wrists like clay pipes, was just so much surface and “swank”. Dean, a journalist herself, sympathises with all this; her book – though these are my words, not hers – is for any woman who has ever silenced a dinner table by being just a little too quick, too knowing, too mocking. Am I allowed to say that I have more than once done just that? Maybe I am.

Link to the rest at The Guardian

Raised by Strangers in the Aftermath of War

6 May 2018
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From The Wall Street Journal:

Claude Monet wrote that “without the fog, London wouldn’t be a beautiful city,” and one suspects that Michael Ondaatje agrees with him. Mr. Ondaatje’s latest novel, Warlight” . . .  is a thoroughly fogbound book about childhood and espionage in postwar Britain that feels its way forward with little sense of direction, creating intrigue and allure from the “mysterious cloak”—to borrow again from Monet—that covers and conceals its story.

That story begins by looking back to 1945, when 14-year-old Nathaniel Williams and his older sister, Rachel, learn that their parents are moving from London to Singapore for a year. The children are left under the supervision of a lodger in their house, an enigma they have nicknamed the Moth for his shy, fluttery movements. But not long after the departures, Rachel finds, hidden in the basement, the trunk that her mother packed and pretended to take overseas. She has not gone to Asia at all, they discover (though apparently their father, a traumatized veteran, has), but all that the Moth will tell them of her disappearance is that she “is away. Doing something important.”

“We grew up protected by the arms of strangers,” Nathaniel, the book’s narrator, recalls. Along with the Moth, a gruff former boxer known as the Darter becomes a fixture in the house, eventually apprenticing Nathaniel in the illegal trades he’s cornered since the end of the war. Some of the most strange and memorable passages in “Warlight” take place at night on a barge in remote tributaries of the Thames, where the Darter and Nathaniel are smuggling greyhounds as part of a dog-racing racket.

Link to the rest at The Wall Street Journal

Authors Beware: Amazon Gets Medieval on Paid and Traded Reviews

22 April 2018

From author Anne R. Allen:

My inbox has been bursting with unsolicited emails for the past few weeks. I must be on a new list of “easy prey” circulating in the the author-scamming community.

. . . .

These emails will “analyze” the Amazon buy page of one of my books—always assuming I’ve only written the one—mansplaining how I’m too stupid to know it’s overpriced, too short, has a bad cover, a bad sales rank (even when it’s a bestseller) and of course, has an insufficient number of reviews.

. . . .

The emailing creeps have no idea I’m with a small press, and they’re actually dissing my publisher. But I can imagine this approach is pretty effective on self-publishers, especially relative newbies. Some judgey stranger offering unpleasant criticism in your morning email can shake an author’s confidence.

And they’re counting on that. Once you’re feeling vulnerable, they pitch bogus or wildly overpriced services, “break into Hollywood” scams, worthless interviews, and that old warhorse, paid Amazon reviews.

. . . .

But when I started to research the paid review business this week, I ran into a bunch of new dramas and draconian changes. So I decided to devote this post to the latest Amazon review horrors.

DO NOT Pay for Amazon Customer Reviews!

One email notified me that I’d failed to get “enough” reviews on my new Author Blog Book. But I could get 25 Amazon reviews from him for only $900!

Dude, here’s the reason many of us “fail” to get tons of Amazon reviews anymore: scammy review-sellers like you.

This is because Amazon fights paid review violations with robots, which are wrong more often than not. And they’re scaring off real reviewers.

In 2016, the Zon changed their TOS to require reviewers to be Amazon customers and forbid any payment—including free products or gift cards—to reviewers of anything other than books. (Book reviewers can review free books as long as they disclose.) This was supposed to crack down on the rampant gaming of Amazon’s review system. For more, see my 2016 post on Amazon’s New Review Rules.

. . . .

A review on a blog is useful, and can be quoted in Amazon’s “editorial review” section, which often has more clout with readers.

But Amazon has recently made more draconian changes. The guidelines have been modified again, and so have the punishments.

It used to be that customers violating Amazon’s TOS were banned from SELLING on Amazon, but the new policy bans them from BUYING.

Your account will be deleted. No warning. No explanations.

. . . .

Amazon’s Review Police-Bots Deleted “Over a Million” Innocent Customers’ Accounts this Month.

Amazon’s latest police-bots are out for blood: if they even suspect you of breaking the rules, your account gets deleted with no warning.

. . . .

The victims got this explanation:

“The account has been deleted for one or both of the following reasons.

Your reviews were posted in exchange for compensation, such as gift cards to purchase the product, product refunds, review swaps, or free or discounted products, and/or Your account was used for commercial purposes.”

. . . .

The most recent crackdown doesn’t only involve draconian punishments for suspected paid reviewers.

Amazon is also banning reviewers from posting in more than one Amazon store. It used to be reviews could be posted in the US Amazon store as well as Canada, UK, Australia, etc., so a UK reviewer could also post a review on, where it had a potential to increase a book’s sales and get it into Bookbub and other newsletters.

Link to the rest at Anne R. Allen

PG says, among other things, the history of Amazon has been typified by an ongoing battle between con men/con women and Amazon. The battle has often been fought in the reviews section.

PG doesn’t blame Amazon for working hard to keep their reviews legitimate and clean. Online customers are among the flightiest of creatures and can click to competitors on the slightest provocation. As anyone who has watched human activities online for very long understands, herd behavior is a real phenomenon and all sorts of seemingly minor problems or lurid stories can startle large numbers of purchasers off to Walmart or Costco.

In the battle between Seattle and Evil, innocent bystanders can be digitally injured.

An estimated three billion people use the internet today. The number and variety of online cons is impossible to calculate and Amazon is likely to see a good portion of those cons, so they have reasons to be paranoid.

That said, it is imperative for Amazon to treat its suppliers well. Just as customers can move elsewhere, so can suppliers. If PG were running the world, there would be more well-designed online indie-friendly bookstores.

Would The World Be Better Off Without Book Reviews And Ratings?

12 April 2018

From No Shelf Required:

Q: What is your ideal kind of online library and book store? 
A: The kind without comments, reviews and ratings. The kind that only gives useful descriptions and context.

Someone asked me recently to describe an ideal app for reading (inside the app: a mix of ebooks, magazines and newspapers), and I found myself describing a very quiet virtual place, full of knowledge and information, without all the white noise. No Comments section. No opinions. No venom.

This led to another question: So you would not allow readers to express their thoughts online? My answer: I want readers to write and express their own original thoughts by publishing their own works (if they so choose), after being inspired or motivated by reading the thoughts of others. But I would like us all to say and write less about other people’s creation, especially since our inherent need (clearly) is to dislike it at least as much as to praise it. It’s become a nasty race. Everything revolves around liking, rating, heart-ing books online. And we must realize it’s hurting more than helping a large number of writers out there.

The value (and the point) of what we create (whether for entertainment or education) is that it will not appeal to every person at every given moment. The writer owes the reader nothing (I’m referring here only to the process of reading). It isn’t the writer’s responsibility to please every reader’s imagination and taste. It is the reader’s responsibility, however, to remain aware of that.

. . . .

This idea that we can ‘decide’ for others has been a dominant force in the publishing and library industry for centuries. Ask yourself next time you walk into your local library or bookstore: are the books awaiting me there (in any format) all the great books out there for me to discover and be inspired by?

. . . .

However, there is no ‘perfect’ combination. A lot of good writing falls through the cracks. It’s been a faulty process for centuries, although, to be fair, a human one. Today, we are turning a corner whether we like it or not. I, for one, like it. We are leveling the playing field, which means more than ever, people are writing and publishing. I’m not suggesting we are all equally good at writing and that everything published will find readership, but I am stating that the process of ‘rating’ literature and ‘quantifying’ a book’s value via ratings (like those we see on Goodreads and Amazon) is often subjective and driven by interests, personal and professional.

Which brings me to book critics and book reviewers. We don’t need them the way we used to (note to the reader: I was a book review editor for ten years). In an evolved society, we (will) think for ourselves more. We (will) exchange knowledge and information without the ‘influence’ part. We (will) ‘filter’ on our own.

Link to the rest at No Shelf Required

PG notes that no one forces a reader to pay attention to reviews and ratings.

For some of his purchases, ratings and reviews are very helpful for PG. For others, they’re superfluous.

In a world where nothing is new or innovative, people would probably pay much less attention to reviews. PG has no problems shopping for fruits and vegetables without any reviews or star ratings next to the carrots.

However, each book is new. Absent plagiarism, no one has written or read that particular book before. A great many readers want to devote their limited reading time (and book budget) to new books they will enjoy. Very few people are happy when they spend money on a book they end up hating after 50 pages.

Some might rationalize the time spent on a bad book as some sort of learning experience that broadens the reader’s outlook or something – an “Eat your spinach – all of it. It’s good for you” view of the world. Reading a terrible book will broaden your outlook by exposing you to a person who can’t write but may have other undiscovered and unexposed talents or experiences you can learn from.

If someone is untalented at writing but talented at playing the lute, PG would much rather be exposed to that person through his/her lute performances. If one likes to enjoy people at their best and finds inspiration and uplift in the works of great artists, the lutist is eminently preferable to a failed novelist.

PG regards time spent reading a book that’s not well-written as pretty much wasted when it could have been used for reading something he enjoyed or learned from.

From a practical standpoint, reviews and ratings are usually the most potent form of marketing for books. That’s the reason authors work hard to solicit good reviews. If reviews weren’t a good way to sell books, smart authors would spend their time somewhere else.

As far as an online library and bookstore providing only “useful descriptions” as described in the OP, a description like “I hated the book and couldn’t finish it” can be among the most useful descriptions provided to a prospective purchaser, particularly when 50 other people usefully describe the book in the same way.

In Praise of Negative Reviews

25 February 2018

From The Baffler:

“Startlingly Smart,” “remarkable,” “endlessly interesting,” “delicious.” Such are the adulatory adjectives scattered through the pages of the book review section in one of America’s leading newspapers. The praise is poignant, particularly if one happens to be the author, hoping for the kind of testimonial that will drive sales. Waiting for the critic’s verdict used to be a moment of high anxiety, but there’s not so much to worry about anymore. The general tone and tenor of the contemporary book review is an advertisement-style frippery. And, if a rave isn’t in order, the reviewer will give a stylized summary of sorts, bookended with non-conclusions as to the book’s content. Absent in either is any critical engagement, let alone any excavation of the book’s umbilical connection to the world in which it is born. Only the longest-serving critics, if they are lucky enough to be ensconced in the handful of newspapers that still have them, paw at the possibility of a negative review. And even they, embarking on that journey of a polemical book review, temper their taunts and defang their dissection. In essence they bow to the premise that every book is a gem, and every reviewer a professional gift-wrapper who appears during the holidays.

It is a pitiable present, this one that celebrates the enfeebling of literary criticism, but we were warned of it. Elizabeth Hardwick, that Cassandra of criticism, predicted it five decades ago, when she penned “The Decline of Book Reviewing” for Harper’s magazine.

. . . .

In Hardwick’s world reviewers and critics were feared as “persons of dangerous acerbity” who were “cruel to youth” and (often out of jealousy) blind to the freshness and importance of new work. Hardwick thought this an unfair estimation, but she would have found what exists now more repugnant. The reviewers at work now are rather the opposite, copywriters whose task it is to arrange the book in a bouquet of Wikipedia-blooming literary references.

. . . .

Hardwick herself underscored this when she pointed a finger at the “torpor,” the “faint dissension” and “minimal style” that had infected the book review in her time. What’s new is that this faint style has developed a politics or an ethics that gives non-judgment in the book review a high-minded justification. Per its pronouncements, all reviewers (and readers) must check their biases and privilege prior to engaging with a text.

It is a lovely sounding idea, particularly in its attempt to ground the extinction of the negative review in a commitment to fairness and equality. Kristina Marie Darling lays out the rest in her recent essay for the Los Angeles Review of Books titled “Readerly Privilege and Textual Violence: An Ethics of Engagement.” Darling, who is white, and was once a “younger female contingent laborer who more than likely qualified for food stamps,” says textual violence “takes many forms,” the most egregious occurring when “the reader makes inferences that extend beyond the work as it appears on the page.” In the example she offers, a reviewer writing for The Rumpus about a book of autobiographical essays dares to wonder whether the author’s excessively picky eating (showcased in the book) may point to an eating disorder. There it is, then: that sin of considering the content in relation to one’s own views. It is a no-can-do for Darling, who, after going through several similar iterations, concludes with an admonition: “reviewers are not arbiters of taste,” she scolds, but rather “ushers in a room full of empty chairs.”

It’s a sad demotion of the book reviewer. Books are compendiums of ideas and experiences, a comment on the world in which they exist, a template as to how a different one, for better or worse, may be imagined. Why set up strict boundaries to criticism, such that nothing short of a thoroughly purified, bleached, and ironed, scolded and warned individual dares take up the task? Why require your reviewers to offer only vapid and overblown praise of whatever they find between the pages?

This new ethic of book reviewing is offered up to protect and assist the unprivileged and the marginalized; and, yes, those whose context and cultures may not be easily relatable may require a bit of extra work from the reader. Yet from there the anti-negative book review cadre argues for limitations on all book reviews. Writing a critical review that dares wonder about the writer’s biography, that goes beyond the page into the suggested and imputed, is not only “textual violence” but a tacit endorsement of inequality, of exclusion, and marginalization.

Link to the rest at The Baffler

PG isn’t certain whether he is part of a small minority, but he constantly “makes inferences that extend beyond the work as it appears on the page.” His personal reactions to the book he is reading are part of his enjoyment of the book. If anyone is interested, he’s happy to talk about those reactions.

While the OP does not think “new ethic of book reviewing” is a good idea, if this ethic develops into any sort of norm for professional or semi-professional reviewers, perhaps Amazon reviews will be the only ones that are truly honest.

On Negative Book Reviews

25 February 2018
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The Millions:

Publishers Weekly doesn’t like my work very much. Before you roll your eyes and/or get all excited at the prospect of a classic “I can’t believe I got a bad review!” hypersensitive-author meltdown, let me hasten to add that I have absolutely no interest in refuting anything they’ve ever written about my books. I mean, I believe in my work, and “reads like a barely-dressed-up B movie screenplay” does strike me as being a bit on the harsh side, but I’m hardly an objective party here. (Also, I kind of like B-movie screenplays.) There’s no such thing as a book that every reader will like.

. . . .

A negative review is never pleasant, but PW reviews have a particularly heart-stopping quality for purely financial reasons: there’s a moment when it dawns on you, as you’re reading all about how your book’s clumsy, lukewarm, bland, awkwardly constructed, and stocked with characters who resemble cardboard cutouts, that this thing’s going to appear on your Amazon, Powells, and Barnes & Noble pages. Which is, practically speaking, frankly kind of a drag when you’re trying to move units.

But the sting wears off after a day or two, and then the review recedes into the hazy territory of tedious-things-that-must-occasionally-be-managed, like the laundry and grocery shopping. The major bookselling e-commerce sites can be persuaded to add other reviews to their pages, and positive customer reviews help balance PW’s tone. I’ve heard of tragically sensitive types who get a bad review and spend the next week in bed, but that kind of thing’s hard to pull off when you’ve got a day job and I find that bad reviews are usually not particularly agonizing once the initial shock wears off. Especially given that PW reviews are anonymous, and after fifteen years on the Internet I have a hard time taking anonymous snark very seriously.

Link to the rest at The Millions

PG notes that the OP was written in 2011, but suspects that, for most authors, the experience hasn’t changed.

Is There a Connection Between Bad Grammar and Negative Online Reviews?

16 February 2018

From Priceonomics:

The internet is full of people giving their opinion on things. From blogs to forums to social media, the internet is a tool that empowers people to share what they think. Most of the time, these posts are not particularly useful (and sometimes even harmful), but for e-commerce sites, user reviews have been revolutionary.

Right now, there are millions of products available to purchase online. Despite never seeing the product or knowing the specific seller, you can make a well-informed decision before buying just by reading the experiences of other people who already purchased them. Academic evidence agrees. Studies show that reviews matter for customer decision making.

But not all reviews are created equal. Some are thorough and provide details on a specific product feature, while others are vague and unintelligible gibberish. Research shows users put a higher value on well-written reviews. Websites like Amazon take this into account by letting you rate whether a review is helpful or not.

Reading through so many reviews ourselves got us thinking, is the quality of writing (spelling, grammar, etc.) markedly different between positive and negative reviews?

. . . .

[W]e compiled 100,000 reviews from thousands of different products. To make sure our data inputs were standardized, we specifically used reviews that had both a star rating (to help us determine if a review was positive or negative) and a written review. On this data, we completed a series of analyses that assessed three aspects of writing quality:

  1. Length of review
  2. Spelling errors
  3. Improper use of grammar

According to our data, negative reviews have a higher rate of misspelled words and a higher rate of incorrectly used apostrophes. They tend to be longer and have more details as well. Five-star reviews typically are shorter and often don’t include punctuation.

. . . .

From our findings, we can say that when people are writing negative reviews, they create longer and more error-filled prose than those who are sharing positive reviews.

. . . .

The next measure on our rubric of writing quality is spelling. Using a spell checker, we can flag all misspellings contained in our review text.

Before evaluating differences between positive and negative reviews, we want to get a sense of spelling aptitude in the overall dataset. The following table shows what proportion of our product reviews contain spelling errors and how many.

. . . .

From our analysis, we showed that five-star reviews have the lowest incidence of spelling errors and most grammar errors. One-star reviews had the most spelling errors, and more negative reviews tended to perform worse across grammar metrics. Still, positive reviews also have errors, as we saw with four-star reviews with apostrophes and five-star reviews with an end of sentence punctuation. Review length could be a factor contributing to the differences in the kinds of errors we see between positive and negative reviews.

Link to the rest at Priceonomics

PG suspects he’s not the only one who performs subconscious language analysis when he considers whether he’s going to give much weight to the reviewer’s opinion.

The Novelist’s Complicity

13 January 2018

From The New York Review of Books:

“In my younger and more vulnerable years, my father gave me a word of advice that I’ve been turning over in my mind ever since.” Thus begins F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby, a novel that many regard as one of the finest literary works of the twentieth century. It’s certainly one of the most popular. The words are uttered by Nick Carraway, the narrator, through whom the entire story is told. His father’s advice is to refrain from judging people because not everyone has had the advantages he has had. But what of those who had all the same advantages and then some, the people who make up Carraway’s milieu in the novel? Carraway proceeds to condemn them, though perhaps pulling his punches when it comes to the eponymous hero.

No effort at putting Fitzgerald’s novel on screen has ever been entirely successful, certainly not in terms of fidelity to his vision. The medium of film has a major obstacle to overcome if it is to provide a faithful rendering of a first-person novel, such as the The Great Gatsby: in general, film cameras show everything in the third person, not from the vantage point of a particular character but from a stance separated from any consciousness.

. . . .

What I’m getting at with all this detail is that there’s a basic difference between fiction grounded in the interiority of characters, on the one hand, and film and TV, on the other. Novels do interiority and the drama of the mind infinitely better than TV and film do.

The imminent death of the novel has been announced every year for as long as I can remember.

. . . .

In 2009, the American novelist Philip Roth predicted that within twenty-five years the readership of novels would amount to a cult. “I think people will always be reading them,” he said in an interview, “but it will be a small group of people. Maybe more people than now read Latin poetry, but somewhere in that range.”

Roth’s prognosis has some data behind it. While the publishing industry might be thriving, buoyed up by cookbooks, self-help manuals and all manner of non-fiction, fiction sales have fallen by 23 percent over the past five years. In most industries, this would raise alarm bells.

Good evidence-based research explaining why fiction sales have fallen so much seems to be lacking, but this hasn’t stopped speculation. The attention spans of readers, it’s said, is now trained for tweets, Facebook posts, and information in bitesize morsels. Roth suggested as much in his interview. “To read a novel requires a certain kind of concentration, focus, devotion to the reading,” he said. “If you read a novel in more than two weeks, you don’t read the novel really. So I think that that kind of concentration, and focus, and attentiveness, is hard to come by.”

. . . .

Television today appears to be capable of delivering many of the rewards novels might offer. There’s some research suggesting that reading fiction improves our capacity to empathize with others whose lives are very different from our own. Even on this score, television can claim some success. Who would deny that The Sopranos has inculcated in viewers a strange empathy for the New Jersey mobster or that Breaking Bad has inspired warmth toward a drug-dealing chemistry teacher?

And if television can reach a wider audience than novels ever did, isn’t the goal of broadening empathy better served by those superbly well-written TV dramas?

. . . .

[T]here may be deeper cultural trends that have led to the decline of novels. In a paper published in 2014 in the journal Administrative Science Quarterly, researchers found that winning a famous literary prize seems to be followed by a steep fall in the quality ratings of a book on the online book review site Goodreads, a limb of the Amazon behemoth. This happened after Julian Barnes won the 2011 Booker Prize for his novel The Sense of an Ending. The researchers speculate that what might be happening is that winning a famous prize draws in a great many readers who would otherwise not consider the book, many of whom have no other reason for expecting to like the book. Some of these readers might not even be habitual readers of fiction.

Amazon and Goodreads ratings, and numerous online book-reviewing sites, have all contributed to and reflected the democratization of the arbitration of literary taste. But such democratization is not intrinsically a good thing.

. . . .

A writer—I think it was the novelist Claire Messud, but don’t quote me—suggested that the literary critic should aspire to be able to say of a novel that “this is a great book even though I didn’t like it.” The implication is that there is much more to what makes a book great and worth reading than merely one’s visceral reaction of liking it or not.

Link to the rest at The New York Review of Books

PG suggests “the democratization of the arbitration of literary taste” has been happening for a very long time (perhaps more slowly in Britain and even more slowly on BBC Radio 4, where the OP originated).

However, “the democratization of the arbitration of literary taste” has certainly not been common everywhere in the world.

Under the general direction of Joseph Stalin, the arbitration of literary taste lacked quite a bit of democratization. For example, per Wikipedia, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn was allowed to publish only one work in the Soviet Union, One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich (1962), in the periodical Novy Mir. After this he had to publish in the West, most notably Cancer Ward (1968), August 1914 (1971), and The Gulag Archipelago (1973). Solzhenitsyn was awarded the 1970 Nobel Prize in Literature “for the ethical force with which he has pursued the indispensable traditions of Russian literature”.

The State Committee for Publishing, (Goskomizdat to its fans) was an enthusiastic arbiter of literary taste in Soviet Russia. PG is not certain whether the literary critics employed by Goskomizdat were ever known to say, “This is a great book even though I didn’t like it” or if their visceral reaction to a book played any role in deciding which author was referred to the Checka or not.

When it comes to deciding what books are available for people to read at reasonable prices, PG is pretty much a First Amendment fundamentalist. If one agrees with a particular literary critic or critics employed by large media corporations in general, (Hallelujah, sister!) let literary criticism thrive. If one prefers synthesizing the opinions of those sharing their thoughts on Goodreads, consulting book reviews in the maw of Amazon itself or (gasp) checking star ratings, illustre stelle vobis.

PG suggests arbitration and literary taste make poor bedfellows. But he could be fundamentally wrong.

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