Reviewing the Review: July 31, 2005

The Sunday New York Times Book Review didn’t have a lot to say about poetry or fiction today. Scattered amidst a mountain range of political essays and history book reviews were eight small, tepid articles about fiction. We politely appreciated a few new multicultural novels from India (Amitav Ghosh, Siddhartha Deb), South Africa (Achmat Dangor), Zimbabwe (Abduirazak Gurnah), Turkey (Moris Farhi) and Japan (Carl Shuker), slammed Tilly Bagshawe’s newest piece of chick-lit, “Adored”, and then sat down with Book Review regular Liesl Shillinger to applaud the newest Harry Potter book, which recieves a review so positive I find it over the top.

I usually like Liesl Shillinger’s articles, which are sharp and fairly critical. I know everybody loves Harry Potter, but I find it off-putting that the only gushing, honest-to-goodness love-fest review the Book Review has printed in the last six months is an ode to a children’s book. It’s easy to love a kid’s book; I’d like to challenge Liesl Shillinger to tell us about a grownup book she likes this much, and if she can’t I’d like to know what she thinks this means.

I expect more challenging subject matter from the best critics in the world. Also, the moony image Shillinger admires in Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (something about a magical swirling bowl that catches dreams) is nowhere near as fresh as she thinks it is. At least give me Lemony Snicket, if we’re clapping our hands about kids books today.

I don’t pick up this publication to see us whacking soft pitches out of the park, but this was decidedly a soft pitch day at the Book Review park. I trust next week will be an improvement.

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