Lethbridge Herald, The (Newspaper) - August 26, 1972, Lethbridge, Alberta
__________ Saturday, August 26, 1972 THE LETHBRIDOS HERAIO _ 8 How book reviews make or break books By A. Kent MacIJnugull, in Tim Wall Street Journal YORK Some blurbs for new books you'll never see in tlic publishers' ads: "Hero's a book so Iransccml- ently bail it makes as fear not only for tlio condition of the novel In tbis country, but for the country ilsclf.11 New York Times on Chandler Bros- surd's "Wake Up. We're Al- most There." "A contemptible example of tlie misuse of access to the public prints the starkest example of irresponsible pub- lishing lo come to our atten- tion." Saturday Review on William Powell's "The Anarch- ist Cookbook." "Eiglit hundred long and two Inches tliick, the book is an Imposing object that should find many uses. It could serve, for iastance, as a dead weight that could instant- ly sink a prosperous na-ycar- oltl author into the East River." magazine on Irving Store's "The Passions of the Mind." As these excerpt1; show, book reviews sometimes are as verb- ally violent as the bloodiest Western. Hut unlike fictional frontier sheriffs, book review- ers don't always get Iheir man. The unfavorable! New York Times review of lhe Jlrossard novel has practically shut off bookslore orders. publisher Richard Baron laments. Hut "The Anarchist Cookbook." which includes instructions to revolutionaries on how lo make bombs, is seeing into its fourth printing. "This is a highly con- troversial book, made by news reports and says pub- lisher Lyle Stunrl. "A view can't sell it, and a bad review canH kill it." Irving Stone's "The Passions of the a fictionalized biography of Slgrmmd Freud, nas off knocks from Time and oilier New York- b a s c rl periodiruLs ''reviews elsewhere have tfencnilly been and for a lime No, 1 on major hest-scller liMs, Explains Kenneth McCnrmick, Mr. Stone's editor at Double- day: "A good percentage of Stone fans and others buying the book don't read reviews or, if they do, arcn'l influenced by them." The response lo the reviews of these three books shows (hat tha relalionship between a book's critical reception and ils sales success or failure can ho mysterious and unpredictable. Mosl books, including Up. We're Almost survive bad reviews. A few. like "Tiie Anarchist can. Reviews can help novel- ists like Mr. Stone become pop- ular, but, once the authors have mode their reputations and won large, loyal fallowings, bad re- views hurt their egos more lhan their royalties. Editors don't always know which books will be important. Kalph Nader's "Unsafe at Any which launched the consumer-protection movement in 19G5> was ignored by Life, Time, Newsweek and most newspapers. An enthusiastic reviesv in the New York Times was buried at The end of a col- umn on books alxnil auto rac- ing and sports cars. John Leonard, who became editor of (he New York Times Book Review after a slinl as one of the paper's daily review- ers, claims Times clout is over- rated. "Any late night TV talk- show can sell more books than the front page of the he insists. when art, theater and dance critics judge Picasso, Olivier and Nureycv on their art alone? "In the literary world, money is equated with be wrote, "A novelist may per- form many abnormal, illegal, or antisocial acts. He may ad- mit to homosexuality, ulcohol- ism, addiction lo drugs, a chant for mistresses; he may beat his wife and kick small animals; and somehow this is acceptable, even colorful, and somehow it enhances the liter- ary image, But money, never money, the root of all evil including evil reviews." Jacqueline Sus-inn, author of the best-selling "Valley of the Dolls" and "The Love Ma- charges Uiat reviewers have a vested interest in knocking big money novelists, "You never make a name for ycursel f by n g good views, but. by being caustic and turning a phrase at the author's she says. "Why should some guy who's never written anything more in his life than a book on bird watching in Africa, and sold 27 copies, he assigned to review a by Loon Uris? There's built-in jealousy, envy, spite in that kind of system." Envy ami spile seem endem- ic in New York's tight little lit- erary world. "It's a basket of crabs everyone biting at one says author and sometime reviewer Gay Talese. "People who write, publish anil edit hooks have enormous egos and thin skins." Two men who seem to fit that description arc Wilfrid Sheet! and Norman Podhor.elz. Mr. Shecd is both a novelist and book reviewer. Mr. Potihoretx is both an author and editor of Commentary magazine. When Mr. Podhoretz's autobiography, "Making appeared a few years ago, Mr. Sliced gave it a rebounding knock in the Atlan- tic, Soon after, he recalls, a fi-iond told him Mi1. Podhoictz had declared tiu'tt Commentary voutd henceforth ignore Mr, Shell's books, Noruxmse, retorts Mr. Pod- hovetz. "Sheed's piece was a completely indefensible hatch- et job, but the main reason we haven't reviewed his novels is that he's a fifth-rate novelist and we don't ordinarily devote space to the kind of lightweight fiction be novels, "f never review a bad lirst novel Irwranse I believe ev- ery writer is entitled lo a sec- ond says John Bark- bam, whose reviews are syndi- cated to some 4tt daily news- papers by the Saturday Re- view, But Charles Monaghan, ed- itor of Hook World, which is published by the Washington Post and the Chicago Tribune, tliinks "coddling a first novel isn't a wiso idea for the future of the genre. Seventy-five per cent of all novels published shouldn't see the light of be declares, "A good tanning once in a while leaches a les- son and helps discourage peo- ple from publishing crnp.'1 A few first novels succeed despite critical apathy or hos- tility. Joseph Heller's "Catch- 22" caught on in tho face of a New York Times three-para- graph review that complained that the Second World War novel "gasps for want of craft and sensibility" and is "repeti- tive and monotonous." More recently, first novelist Erich Segal hit the jackpot with "Love Story" despite mix- ed reviews. Time ignored lhe book until after it became a bestseller, aixl News week said it "skips from cliche t o cliche- with an abandon that vriuld chill even the blood of a Tri'e Romance editor." Book reviewing isn't a par- ticularly lucrative trade. Re- viewers for most newspapers except the very largest get only the book and a byline. The same for lhe scholars who re- view for Library Journal. The Nation pays to for a re- view, the New York Times to and Life magazine Many newspaper reviews bear such a close resemblance to publicity and jacket copy (bat publishers suspect the re- viewers didn't open their free copy. Kven big league review- ers are sometimes so accused. After a Saturday Review re- viewer five times rnisi den tilled the protagonist of D a 11 o n Trumbo's reissued novel "John- ny Got His Gun" as Johnny, a reader wrote In to point out that the hero's name is actual- ly Joe. A Harper's review of Peter Matthiesrcn's "At Play in the Fields of the so garbled the novel's plot that one reader c om pi ai ncd the rev ie wcr d id little except fumble through the and a second charged that the reviewer "demon- strates unmistakably that hasn't even read the book." Harper's ran the letters and this note from the reviewer, Roderick Cook: "I have }ust reread the book that 1 thought 1 had read, and am appalled that 1 could have blundered carelessly in re- porting the plot as I did. I would like to apulogixe un- equivocally to Mr- Matlhic.s- sen and his publisher's; and I would like lo refer anyone who has been misled by my review to the letter informed reviews of this book that have appear- ed elsewhere." One reviewer, Gerald Walk- er, says he has skipped parts of some book-; in "sheer solf- defcnse, You don't have to read all of a bad book to know it's bad." he declares. But most re- viewers claim to read every word, "I dor.'l skim or skip." says Barbara Bannon a Pub- lishers' Weekly editor and re- viewer o c an zip t hrou gh three novels in a single after- noon. Few reviewers admit having tak en speed-read ing i as truc- tron. "1 wns spoed-readim: n decade before these courses came irAo boasts Mr. Barkham of the Saturday Review vSyndicate. Mr. Bark- ham grinds out a weekly quota of four to five book reviews and an 800-word author inter- view. "I work seven clays a e e k and even take books along on he says. "If f didn't have lo read books for the job, I'd read them for plea- sure." That may be, but without good reviews an uneslabli.shed author can't always get a talk show Inviiattoii. Publisher Da- vid. McKay attributes the enor- mous success of "Everything You Alwnys Wanted to Know About Sex But Were Afraid to Ask" largely (o author Da- vid Kcubcn's TV anrl radio ap- pearances. Rut until Life reviewed the book a month after publication, "wr couldn't anyone on TV or radio lo touch rc- cnlls Iho publisher's publicity director, Carolyn Anthony. "Life- gave the hook respec- tability find rcalfy made it." On the other hand, Li fa hasn't been able lo unmake books by already established "big money" novelists like Ir- ving Wallace. When Mr. Wal- lace's "Tho Seven Minutes1' ap- peared, Life instructed its re- viewer to review the novel without first rending it. "If Wallace can j.rll n book to a foro ho writes it. why shouldn't a reviewer review it before hn reads asks David Soher- m.in, Iho reviews editor. Tfio sneering review ro- may have .struck Mr. Srhprnian and Mfo renders as funny, but not Mr. Wallace. In n subsequent polemic against book re viewers, he posed tho Why should a book rnvicwfT impugn lhe inolivos and talent of wealthy writers, Nor did Mr. Podhoretz find sp.-icc for a favorable review of "To An Early a novel that contained a character wilh a remarkable resemblance lo Mr. Podhorctz himself. M r, Fcxlhoi-clz rejected a favorable rev by a respected free lance critic and substituted an unfavorable review by a Com- mentary editor. Nothing unto- ward about that, Mr. Podhorctz assures a questioner: "It wasn't that we disliked the book but lhat we disliked the review, ft was stylistically pretentious, substantively banal arid unintelligent about the novel's Jewish content." The rough handling o( Chandler B r o s s a r d's novel, "Wake Up. We're Almost was the work of an alleged personal enemy. The reviewer who labeled the book "tran.sccndcntly was Ann- tolo Broyard, who, it turns out, once was author Brossard's closest friend and was best man at bis wedding in 194R. Soon afterward the two fell out, and Mr. Brassard's first, novel, published in 1051, contained a conlemptiblo character .said to based on Mr. Broyard, Ac- cording to Mr. Rrossard, Mr. Broyard evened lhe score 20 yenrs later with his demolition job OH Mr. Rrossard's fourth jiovcl. Mr. Broyard denies that any animosity for Mr. Rrossard in- fluenced his judgment on "Wake Up. We're Almost. There." John Ixionnrrl, the ed- itor the Times Book Review, which published tho, review, says he didn't know the nu-ji were anjiiaitiled. "1 have no doubUs about Broyard's in- he says, "hut it may have been a mistake (or him lo review this hook, because his review was subject to misinter- pretation." Many reviewers refuse lo re- view books, they think nre bad, though for varying reasons. Critic Lionel Trilling rend Ir- ving Stone's "The Passions of the Mind" hut declined to re- view it for the Times Book Re- view on lhe ground It wasn't worth bis lime, Waller Clem- mis, a TiniCA stnff reviewer and of energy to fulminate against bad hooks.1' Gay Talese says lie's "in such sympathy with writing, and lhe difficulty of writing, that f respect anyone who can finish a book. If I rlon't like a book, I recognize tfi.it my reasons might be very personal and nol worth putting in writing for other people In Mast reviewers arc particu- larly loatJi to cut down first Travelling days are done Pholo by Walter Korber Money makers and making money The Voice Of One -By DR. FRANK S. MORLEY University in the Canadian wilderness T ASKED a student w h o bad won a popularity contest how she liked uni- versity. "Most of it is she re- plied. She was very vague as to what she meant. Were the subjects unrelated to life? Any subject that is well taught must be related to life. Was ihe teaching life- less? Any dull, unenthusiastic teaching is irrelevant Perhaps she meant that to bo a good cook one does not need history or a knowledge of the English language or geol- ogy. In that case she sounds like the man said he didn't know why his wife had gone crazy since she not been out of the kitchen in twenty years. Surely an ed- ucated man is more than a mere techni- cian. David Truman expressed, the fear that the American educational system was in grave danger of turning itself into a factory for lhe production of specialists, technicians, and fact collectors, making a mature understanding of lumself and his environment increasingly difficult I o achieve, (or, in other words, a liberal ed- ucation j. Possibly she felt the lack of personal teaching by the able professors. Imperson- ality is a serious fault of the modern uni- versity with its huge numb era, but the sit- uation is sadly aggravated by the pre-occu- pation of professors and lecturers with the paper work and committee work of their departments, not lo mention the pressure put on them U> write books and articles regardless of whether or not they have anything to say. She may have suffered from the modern delusion that every class and subject should be thrilling and make one's spine tingle. Another student told me thai all study should be exciting and when T sug- gested lhat every Job and discipline In- volved drudgery he became downright in- sulting. No man loves his work who will not put up with the drudgery involved and his willingness lo accept ihe drudgery measures his love. Or.o serious problem U that very few people have any idea what education is. Surely the acquiring of knowledge should be, not lo create a lumber yard, but to cultivate, train, and enrich the mind. Any- one without this purpose should not be at university as Dr. Samuel Johnson declared regarding the expulsion of six students from Oxford, "What have thsy to do at a university who are not willing to be taught, bat will presume to teach? I believe they might be good beings, but they were not fit to be at the University of Oxford." Another problem is the lack of unity In knowledge which denies the very name and nature of a university. Cardinal Newman in defining the nature of the university said, "In the nature of things, greatness and unity go together; excellence implies a center." This unity is lost today both in subject matter and in the pattern of living. A university is no longer a community as was its original intention. Also universities have become pagan and secular institu- tions, only a few members of which iani religious faith, This may be the under- lying cause of the popularity of drugs and esoteric cults an effort to find a unity between conscious and subconscious life as veil as between individuals, society, and their world. As Arnold reflected on him- self looking down at the Carthusian mon- astery, "Wandering between two worlds, one dead, the other powerless to be bora." So the modern universitv. A better world in the offing By Jane Hnekvale Bloom, B former New York Post reporter, introduces in- dividuals who now, or somo lime or another, have through their presence given Wail Street Ihe color it has in lhe eyes of ils beholders. 'There is Alfred Cmvlcs, who tried to prove financial advisers frauds and devised bis own market system: Phil and Jerry sreni lo perpetrate ttic idea, that foolr- have always been o Hrjpf ploitcd and rightly so. ilA n "Rogues lo Riches" hy Murray Illoom (Lonp- mnn Canada Limited, 3S2 psfirs, S8.7r.l. TVIONKV omnipotent com- modily. How to get il, lo keep it and lo lose it is a pcr- pclual riddle lo many, a lifo style for a few In Rogues lo Riches, Mr. eyeing each other with mis- trust, trying I" outsmart them- selves on an unpredictable market. Nietzsche said that "the lie is a condition of life." It seems, reading this hook, that money Is too, no matter in what way obtained. fo Hiches also ex- 'T'HOSE of ui whose daily occupation Is involvement with the news, interna- tional, national and local, sometimes find our work overwhelmingly depressing. Is there no way out of this disastrous maze we ask? Is there no good news, nothing that gives us firm and abiding hope? Must the wires spill forth day after day, week after week, and forever, their grisly tales of killings, bombing, starvation, racial hatreds, drugs, murders, social unrest, and constant bitter dispute? There is so little to he cheerful about that some newspapers have taken to plac- ing what there is in a special box, drawing the attention of tortured readers to that small happy event which some reporter has been assigned to find amid the welter of gloom and disaster. The bad news persists in taking over the headlines, not because newspaper report- ers are sensational, but because the news IS bad and the public has a right to know what it is, whatever it is. To those of us who have lived in a less agitated age, the world in which our chil- dren will mature is frightening in its un- certainly, in its lack of promise, and sta- bility. How can the world go on, we won- der, as our failure to come to terms with humanity Itself and with the earth we all share, becomes more apparent every day? Some words of encouragement come from one of the most highly respected newspaper men of today, columnist James Reston of the New York Times. In ad- dressing the graduating class at Stanford University in Palo Alto, Calif., this year, Reston pointed out the wide gulf separat- ing the world which was lu's as a young man, and that of the youthful college grad- uate of today. He, and others of his gen- eration, said Reston grew up in "a world of ideology and authority. We had wars you could believe in, if you didn't know too much. But now we have Vietnam, and managers instead of leaders and no ideol- ogy and no authority and far less ignor- ance than before." One might dispute Mr. Reston's state- ment on "ideology and authority." or at least qualify it. But there is no dispute to accept Hie uc'.vs of cnir our statesmen arid leaders and teachers, by at- tempting, not always successfully, to fol- low their moral precepts, their established code of ethics and human relationships. There was much that was wrong with was taught then and the young peo- ple of today are finding out what it is. They have a great advantage over us, be- cause they are not ignorant as we were. They know that something is dreadfully askew in a world where millions live in poverty, where injustice and cruelty pre- vail even in a so-called enlightened society, where racial prejudice continues fo exist, where Christianity has not made true Christians of most of us, They are ques- tioning the world as those of Reston's gen- eration and mine never did, and they aro questioning it because they know more about it. And with the questions, the moral confusion, the fear, there is already ground for hope, because young people, and even old ones who are not yet old enough to view their own youth with rose-colored glasses, are beginning lo know that "soma strong tides are running towards accomo- dation between classes, regions and races In our own country." "We says Reston, "a long way from a decent and honorable arrangement between the poor and the rich at home and abroad, but at least we are beginning to talk in this country about the funda- mental questions of life more lhan before not only about the relations between the nations, but between husbands and wives, parents and children, teachers and students, preachers and parishioners, labor and management, black and white." We are, in short, facing the truth about ourselves and our world, and finding it extremely painful. But it should not make cynics of us because the going is rough; we should not give in to hopeless despair because we cannot see Uie light at the end of the tunnel. In our fumbling, myopic way, we are trying to right some of the wrongs, alleviate some of the suffering, come to terms wilh our prejudices, our hatreds, our unreasoned end often totally mis- guided beliefs. The world ahead will be a better one, simply because so many human "The Time Is Never Hipp" hy II. C. Classen (Centaur Press. S3.SO paper, 256 1JBHK is a collection of 2fi essays written and com- piled liy Mr. Ch-M-u. They cover a wide range of although most nrn centred arouncl .social issues of one kind or aiirjllier. M's a useful book lo read he- rrmse one rnn never hc.ir loo ninny opinions on such things a.s religion, social cnndilimvs, sex, youlh, do. Although the reader mk'ht (and in somo rases, will like- ly) disagree wilh lhe aulhor on how lie sees certain fundamen- tal issues. Mr. Classen doesn't seem (o bo Irying to convince people thnl hi-, views hole) tho answer [f> Ihesc1 hnsir hut rather, lie H hoping In pro voko fhoughl ami discussion, RON CALDWEI.Ti has made millions in an invest- ment advisory capacity: intelli- gent Jonathan Iloldcn set np a trust in 1915, which will make ils master of fivo qunlrillion dollars in Sflfl years. T h e r e is the whom Cicxl (iviiiils lo use his visions for money making so ho only Irics bis luck for one hour n day. One nicclx gamblers, who made Ilioir money hy hook or crook, hung on lor n while, lived in style and died miserably; others who existed like paupers and HI perplexed relatives wilh millions. With all these rascals of wealth, one finds it hard to be- lieve that the whole world is helping Ihem to get richer still. Til? impression lhat Wall Slrccl muM he a lerriblc place, filled wilh prcwly people, is perva- sive. and suckers hero keep jealous company, always plains about market letters and s c r n t i ni'zes all kinds of analysis, who would like to hut don't really know for sure how to get rich. The broker appears the shrewdest of the vicious circle, never risking his own money, thriving on commissioas and only losing now and (hen the poor mnn's pride his reputa- tion. Schools have sprung up which attempt to leach how to make an honest buck al the slock market- They have impressive attendance Iheir resulls nevertheless ;ire limited. The book is nn atlempl In bring ne.nror Iho characters of ccrlain money makers in our society. It i.s immensely read- able, especially for (hose inter- ested in (he stock market. The interprel.ition of different tech- niques, formulas and gim- micks, the tips and ideas of Wall Slreot insiders mighl even induce you lo play the market knows, hopefully make you millions richer. HAN'S SCHAUFL with "far less ignorance than before." He .beings now know and protest against the is quite right In maintaining that his gen- eration and mine were all too ready inadequacies of the old one. All is not yet lost. The population groivth issue The Great Falls A slower population growth pattern is ad- lion's population, which grew from 76 mil- lion in 1000 to 205 million in 197D, will visable for the U.S., n 24-member com mission created by Congress, reported re- cently. "We have found no convincing argument for conlinued national population the commission, headed hy John D. Rocke- feller III, said. "On the contrary. pluses seem to be on the side of slowing growlh ajid eventually stopping It altogether." The commission said slower population growlh can conlribule lo lhe nation's sbil- ily to solve its problems by providing an opportunity lo devote resources to the quality of life rather than ils quanlily. The commission explained that Ihe na- grow lo 271 million by 2000 if families have only two children on the average and im- migration continues at current levels. If families average three children, (lie popula- tion at the end of the century will be 322 million. In 100 years, a two-child family average will result in a population of 350 million while a three-child family average would give Ihe nation a population of nearly one billion. Thoughtful Americans will want to con- sider what a otic billion population would mean. One billion means adding the pres- ent population of tho ration lo that of China.