Reviewing a book you don’t like

I was asked recently to do a book review for a scholarly journal. However I really don’t think much at all of the book in question, and I hesitate to criticise others’ work too roundly, so I will likely turn down this request. If only I had the literary skills of Thomas de Quincey:

What is the deadest of things dead? It is, says the world, ever forward and rash, “a door-nail”. But the world is wrong. There is a thing deader than a door-nail — viz. Gillman’s Coleridge, Vol. I. Dead, more dead, most dead, is Gillman’s Coleridge — dead, deader, deadest, is volume the first, which is waiting vainly, and for thousand years is doomed to wait, for its sister volume, viz. Vol. II. The man is not born whom prophetic destiny has appointed to the task of gilding those short-hand distinctions, Vol. II. The readers of Vol. I languish in vain for the second course of their banquet; the caravan that should convey it has foundered in the Arabian wilderness, “And Mecca sickens at the long delay”…

2 thoughts on “Reviewing a book you don’t like”

  1. I was vaguely assuming that “the task of gilding those short-hand distinctions, Vol. II” was just a poetical turn of phrase, but at dinner this evening, looking at the lettering on the spines of 19th century books glinting in the candlelight, Ealasaid commented that it was a reference to the bookbinder – since this was before the age of trade bindings, and every copy printed would be hand bound in leather with the title and the words “Vol II” hand-lettered on the spine with a hot stamp and gold leaf.

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