Faint Praise: The Plight of Book Reviewing in America, by Gail Pool. Columbia, Missouri: University of Missouri Press, 2007. 184 pages, 6 x 9 in., bibligraphy, index, $19.95 (paper).
Gail Pool sent me this book because she picked up a quote from Guy Davenport off this website. I once did a fair amount of reviewing — I was a member of the National Book Critics Circle and the Bay Area Book Reviewers Association — but, as I’ve mentioned before, I became disaffected with reviewing, and rarely review in print any more. I suppose I was worn down by the banality and mediocrity of most book reviews (a charge from which I do not necessarily exempt my own contributions).
Does it have to be that way? Gail Pool doesn’t think so, and it’s encouraging to hear that she still believes in reviews, thinks they matter, and imagines that significant industry-wide improvement are possible. I admire her attitude, and I’d like to think she is right. But I can’t fully share her optimism — not, at least, as concerns what she calls “traditional book reviews.”