Friday, June 11, 2004
It is regarded as somewhat disreputable to prefer reading books reviews over reading the books being reviewed; this is judged as being less than fair-minded and also less than independent-minded. But let me defend this preference on the ground that truly fair and independent minds are mythical beasts, wondrous unicorns as it were, and also that time is always in limited supply. In the following instances, I have the additional excuse that I can neither meet with Ronald Reagan, now that he is dead, nor do I want to put up $10 to see Troy.

"The first post-Enlightenment president?", The Economist's obituary of Ronald Reagan, is generally favourable, but also remarkable nuanced. Which is good relief from the embarassingly glowing elocutions that is taking up so much newsprint and air-time, even on NPR. This is an example of good review, that although I must disagree with it, I can at the same time understand and respect it.

"A Little Iliad", Daniel Mendelsohn's review of the Wolfgang Petersen film Troy, probably won't be fleeced by ad writers for exclamations, which is a shame; it is not often that a film review revolves itself around the Aristotelian critique of epic poetry. In fact, I was far more interested in seeing the film after reading it than I would after reading this. Perhaps when it comes out on DVD, maybe. (David Edelstein's review of the same, referred to by Mendelsohn, is here.)

It is interesting to consider both reviews, good and bad, are likely to be far more nuanced than the original articles.