I think it's a pretty tacky disservice to your readers to print canned book reviews from the Associated Press. Even though you may be saving a buck, there's a question of integrity involved here. Let's take one example. On Oct. 7 you ran David Smyth's AP review of W.
J. Wood's Battles of the Revolutionary War, 1775-1781. Smyth, who obviously had no idea what he was talking about, liberally quoted from the book's preface and dust jacket. If he had read the book or had a brain, Smyth might have noticed that author Wood used absolutely no primary sources in his work. One of his main sources for the chapter on the battle of Oriskany is Walter D. Edmonds' novel Drums Along the Mohawk and, in his chapter about Cowpens, Wood has the unmitigated gall to actually quote himself (page 221).
There are comic books and then there is serious history just as there are real book reviewers and there are pimple-faced pretenders at the corner desks of the Associated Press.
T. Harger, Indian Shores
Pinter novel wasn't unknown
Thank you for publishing the review of Harold Pinter's The Dwarfs. It will not be a popular book and your publishing the review confirms the high regard I have for the books section of the St. Petersburg Times. There is, however, one small error in the review. The statement "It now turns out that _" creates the impression that the existence of the novel was unknown before this publication. Martin Esslin discusses the novel at some length in The Peopled Wound: The Work of Harold Pinter first published in 1970, and a number of other books on Pinter refer to it. I read the novel a number of years ago in Pinter's study behind his London home, and published a chapter from it in each of the first two issues of The Pinter Review, which is published right here in the bay area by the University of Tampa.
Francis Gillen, co-editor, The Pinter Review,
Dana professor of literature
Mr. Codrescu's review of Oct. 21 of J.
D. McClatchey's The Vintage Book of Contemporary American Poetry is a bloated piece of infantile self-aggrandizement, written apparently for the purpose of boosting the sales of his own book.
Mr. Codrescu is an angry man, indeed, and it is probably no accident that his forthcoming volume is titled Belligerence. The amount of spittle and venom he spreads around is extraordinary. We might speculate that his identification with, and defense of, unrecognized minority poets is, in fact, a displacement of his own rage at being passed over by his peers. What he really may be saying is, "I should have had the editorship of that anthology! It's not fair! Everybody's against me!"
Unfortunately, a book review is not an appropriate vehicle with which to express despair at the vicissitudes of one's personal life. When the reviewer does not have enough self-control to avoid this, it becomes the responsibility of the editor to correct it.
I was surprised and disappointed that your editor did not do so.
David W. Panek, St. Petersburg
Critiquing the critics
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