Monday Stepback: The Glowing Review with the B- Grade

The weekly links, opinion, and personal updates post

1. Links of Interest

I was feeling pretty spiffy a few months ago when I added the WP  Touch Pro plugin so that viewers of this blog could have access to a clean, scaled version for their mobile phones. But now I have to wonder, Is Your Website Ready for the Coming Tablet Revolution? (via @jafurtado).


Novelist Emily St. John Mandel on Bad Reviews at the Millions.


The kerfuffle of the week: Bitch Media posted a list of 100 Feminist YA Books, got some heat for a few titles, considered the complaints, and removed them. I think Bitch should not have put out a list they couldn’t defend, about a reading genre with such a passionate online community, and should have had a better plan in place for handling criticism and discussion. While creating a list of 100 is fine, because it doesn’t follow that all the books left off aren’t feminist, taking books off that list does imply that about the books removed. So removing books is much more fraught and needed to be handled a lot more deftly. I think authors have every right to chime in and ask that their books be removed from the list, but I think it’s Bitch’s list and they have the right to keep them on. I also think the reaction is overblown on all sides. The folks at Bitch made some mistakes, but nobody’s killing puppies. For a great response, see this terrific post by The Book Smugglers, who got dragged into it when one of their reviews was used as the basis for complaints about one of the offending books. Both posts have long long threads, which include comments that might well make you sad and/or angry.


From reader Liz, Sexless Novels, in Esquire, which demonstrates clearly what happens when you exempt half the writing population based on gender:

Today, many writers have largely abandoned sex as an area of concern. There are exceptions. Predictably, the French are still capable of producing an enfant terrible, though in the case of Michel Houellebecq, he is no longer particularly enfant nor terrible. The best writing about sex I’ve read recently comes from England, where Geoff Dyer seems to have a right and healthy attitude about the way these things can work — a little cocaine, some free booze, a chance encounter over a few days in Venice — voilà … healthy, happy orgasms for all!


Are eBooks heralding the End of Ownership? An interesting interview with Librarything’s founder:

Once you realise your Kindle book is not fully yours, you’ll accept it being mostly not yours. Google Ebooks are a further step away from ownership. Eventually you get to a faucet model, as music has done, either low-price (Netflix) or free (Pandora, YouTube).

“By itself, such changes might be culturally and economically neutral. Ownership of paper books wasn’t so much a consumer preference as a side effect of their physical nature, and law followed and solemnized that state of affairs. Maybe the faucet model will produce more readers, more reading, more good books, more paid authors, etc. Or maybe it will produce less. Who knows?”


I’ve been thinking about doing a video blog (Be afraid. Be very afraid.), and have been interested in how others do it. There are some deadly boring ones out there. But author Nicole Peeler shows us how it’s done with this video review of Andrew Shaffer’s Great Philosophers Who Failed at Love (a book I will do a writeup on in the near future). I mentioned in my last post that I am writing an essay for a Hunger Games and Philosophy volume, and am pleased to say Andrew is making a contribution as well, on schadefreude!


Can authentic social media engagement sell books? Well, Sonomalass bought Stephanie Dray’s Lily of the Nile based on a tweet about Dray’s post on the relationship between historical romance and historical fiction.


Tweeter extraordinaire and former reviewer at TGTBTU, Limecello, has struck out on her own and has a blog, with reviews, contests, and more serious posts. Check it out.


Not book related, but via The Awl, I found this great website that collects links to cover performances of various artists, from Lucinda Williams to Phil Ochs to Ani Difranco. Love it!


From When Falls the Coliseum, a teenager faces an uphill battle when she tries to convince her persuasive writing teacher father to buy her a cell phone. Very cute.

2. When Reviews and Grades Don’t Add Up

I think we all know that sometimes the book review itself and the final grade (or number of stars, or number of wineglasses, books, roses, etc.) don’t match. Usually, this is because the grade seems high given the serious criticisms in the body of the review.

But lately, I have noticed the opposite trend. The grade might be a B- or C+, but the review contains nothing but positive or neutral comments. Can you imagine if I handed a paper back to my students, with a B- grade, that didn’t explain why it’s not an A? I feel the same way about reviews.

So this is a plea. If a book is not an “A” or “A-” read, please let us know why in your review. Thanks!

3. Personal

Nothing much to report. I did have a great time with 15 other people last night celebrating Chinese New Year with a 25 course meal. Too good of a time to take pictures, sorry to say. It turns out I am a Rooster, and thus will not have such a good year, according to our host, whom I subsequently did not tip.* ** ***

I’m teaching parts of Tod Chambers’ The Fiction of Bioethics this week in the seminar, and finishing up Kant and giving an exam in Ethics.

I’m reading His at Night by Sherry Thomas and No Souvenirs by K.A. Mitchell and enjoying both tremendously.

Have a great week!

*that’s a joke people.
** what I meant to say was that I would have withheld a tip, but it was included in the price.
***again, joking.

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