A brutal and yet elegant takedown (or the art of the negative review)

I have been in a bit of a reading funk of late.  Can’t seem to find a book that really hooks me and allows to get to that place where you just want to read and are able to shut out the world.  Which stinks because 1) I love to read obviously and 2) reading is usually how I relax but for whatever reason it hasn’t been working of late.  I am attempting to shake it up and read some different stuff to see if I can break out of this rut/funk.

In the meantime, allow me to point out a paragraph I truly wish I had written.  As I noted on Tumblr and Twitter, this is the best first paragraph of a book review I have read in a long, long time – maybe ever.  The unfortunate part is that it is an absolutely brutal critique despite its elegance:

It’s unfortunate for Caleb Carr that the craft of writing so often disobeys a beloved American maxim: Hard work pays off. The colossal effort Carr has exerted to produce his latest book, “The Legend of Broken,” weighs distressingly on each of the novel’s 734 pages, including nearly 80 pages of endnotes. This is a fantasy epic — the tale of a fabled Germanic kingdom that rose and fell during the Dark Ages — but with its convoluted prose, its trudging plot and its onslaught of unsurprising period detail, it’s a perverted one. Sweat drips from the pages. Magic does not rise.

A tip o’ the hat to you Mike Peed for that wonderful paragraph.

What do you think? An effective and fair critique or an over-the-top slam better left unsaid?

To give both sides, the Washington Post saw it somewhat differently:

All of this post-modern folderol makes for a rather contorted opening to what quickly turns out to be an excellent and old-fashioned entertainment that evolves into a clever discourse on the history and development of modern warfare.

At its best, “The Legend of Broken” seamlessly blends epic adventure with serious research and asks questions that men and women grappled with in the Dark Ages and still do today.

Personally, I would have to really believe in an author to take on a 750 page read …

About the author

Kevin Holtsberry

I work in communications and public affairs. I try to squeeze in as much reading as I can while still spending time with my wife and two kids (and cheering on the Pittsburgh Steelers and Michigan Wolverines during football season - oh, and watching golf too).

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