Msnowe's Blog

The Immortal Life of Good Reviews

Posted in Uncategorized by m.snowe on January 11, 2011

m.snowe’s “tips” for how to write a book that will invariably be reviewed well by the general/intellectual audience and the media outlets they praise (i.e. NYTimes, NYRB, etc.):

1. Be pretty/handsome in your author photo. Smile into the camera and tilt your head if female. Gaze ponderously (with glasses) and look towards something in the distance if male.

2. Have a long title (so that it eats up review word count and reviewers don’t have to say as much about your book, or alternatively, they can give it a snappy abbreviated title). Example: “The Soul-Crushing Work of Staggering Boredom in Which Everything is Illuminated to Radioactive Levels, Bitch.”

3. Make your book at least partly about race or poverty, and be sympathetic to it. That, or the plight of middle America. Immediately, Oprah will make your book into a made-for-tv movie on HBO, and no reviewer will ever be able to completely hate your book, for fear of being labeled as a racist or upper-class elitist. (But do not think you will get a similar reaction if it’s about gender or neuroscience.)

4. Where appropriate, add “local color.” That can be in the form of cool story framing or the use of accents specific to Southern locales. Do not correct grammatical errors in speech. You’re not being lazy or exploiting a different race/class because, you know, it’s for local color and authenticity.

5. Write well, but not unimpeachably so. Because if you write too well, people will review your book poorly just to be contrarian or self-aggrandizing.

6. Add a spiritual revelation. Laying on of hands and shaking are optional, but encouraged.

–m.snowe just finished reading “The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks,” by Rebecca Skloot. While m.snowe for the most part enjoyed reading it (especially the aspects of law, science, racial tension, and privacy), she really hated the sections written in the first person by Skloot. Her interaction with the family, while unavoidable to mention, is covered in a way that is deeply patronizing and self-congratulatory. And considering everybody has been shitting daisies all over this book, she thought someone should mention its flaws.

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4 Responses

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  1. Gretchen said, on January 14, 2011 at 8:10 am

    Good to know. I keep putting off reading this book for the daisy shitting reason. There’s no way it can do anything but disappoint me. I would love to read your review of The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo.

  2. m.snowe said, on January 14, 2011 at 8:28 am

    Thanks Gretchen! I haven’t picked up TGWTDT yet, but when I do, I’m sure I’ll have things to say about it on the blog.

  3. Ben Keene said, on January 27, 2011 at 1:42 pm

    This makes me think my guidebook is going to get slammed. I knew I should have added a spiritual revelation…

  4. m.snowe said, on January 28, 2011 at 2:53 am

    Ben, I think there is a different rubric for guidebooks–so don’t fret too much yet. That said, if you could sneak in perhaps a forest epiphany in the next round of proofs, that couldn’t hurt.


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