Sunday, February 19, 2012

Them's not fighting words (Sydney Morning Herald, February 2012)



I hesitate to begin a book review by referring to the publisher’s blurb, still less to the puff quote on the book’s front cover, but in the case of Public Enemies, a volume of correspondence between the novelist Michel Houellebecq and the philosopher Bernard-Henri Lévy, the temptation proves irresistible.

First the puff quote: ‘Brilliantly done’ (Ian Buruma, New York Times). Now, we all know the publisher’s trick of selecting one word from a mixed review to make it sound more positive than it is, but this takes the biscuit. For turning to the source of this ostensible endorsement we find that it isn’t an endorsement at all but the sarcastic conclusion to a sarcastic review that affects to treat the book as a joke. Buruma, in other words, is being ironic. For ‘Brilliantly done’ read ‘Wow, this is silly!’ [More here.]

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