Sunday, January 06, 2008

The Star, by the stars

My joke for the way Dan Smith at the Toronto Star puts together his weekly book section is that he is guided "by the stars." Anyone who has written reviews for him knows the drill: a review submitted one week can appear in the paper the next, or not for months, and occasionally not at all.

Case in point: I picked up Eliza Clark's Writer's Gym last June and sent in the review shortly thereafter. And now here, more than six months later, is the review.*

The more significant piece in this weekend's Star book section was the farewell by Phil Marchand, who is moving over to the film beat (?) to make room for the incoming Geoff Pevere (??).

While Marchand's reviews have been showing distinct signs of reviewer-fatigue of late – a lot of plot summary to bulk up the word count, a tendency toward repetition, and an overall sense of resignation in the face of a steadfastly parochial literary culture – when his boiler was sufficiently stoked, he wrote the kind of sharp criticism he was known for, the kind that can be found especially in his book Ripostes, which I end up re-reading every year or so, both by design and by accident.

Personally, I think the guy should get a medal. (And okay, so should Dan... but have it come much later than expected.)

My hopes for Pevere are, or course, that he will be sharp and funny and perceptive and all that, but really, I just hope that he sticks with it, and that this isn't the first step in the elimination of that position altogether. After all, count the number of full-time literary critics we have in this country.

* ADDED: Awfully good idea to begin the lead up to the publication of my first novel by suggesting that ordinary people shouldn't write novels, isn't it? I sometimes adhere too closely to Klingon-style diplomacy. Oh well.


Ross said...

You should be the Star's Book guy. I mean, how's this for a descriptive phrase mid-sentence (pick it out blog readers--it's gold!): "One has to wonder how that exercise would work with a passage by Melville or Lawrence or Woolf or Barthelme, or any great writer who fills his [or her] work with unnecessary adjectives, patience-trying subclause thickets, even intentionally bad writing?" Yeah-- that one: "...patience-trying subclause thickets.." Sheesh. That's fuckin' great, Nathan. And I mean that. 'Moving Picture Pevere' can keep reviewing films as long as I'm reading this high quality in Mr. Whitlock's writing. Vote Nate for Star Book Editor!

nathan said...

You know I would only call for a recount.

Long may Dan Smith reign.

Ross said...

Pardon me, I didn't mean you should have Dan's job. I meant you should shoo Mr Pevere from his new post. Vote Nate for Star Book Columnist! (By-the-by, how does one italicize and 'embolden' one's font on these comment posts?) Best.