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Tuesday, March 06, 2018

Save Reading Thousands of Words with Condensed Reviews!

Save Reading Thousands of Words with Condensed Reviews!
By Nicholas Stix

When a book review’s lede is a 55-word long false contrast, you know you’re in trouble. Things can only go downhill. And so it is with a Kevin Jackson at the Literary Review. His 1,280-word review of a history of 1940s’ Paris opens, “For a book that is crammed with [sordid business sexual, murderous, etc.]… Agnès Poirier’s Left Bank is a remarkably exhilarating read.”

Where’s the contrast?

That was the first paragraph. The second is even better: It consists of one, 80-word sentence. It cites 13 names, all but 11 of them positively or benignly (same difference), and the last two with hostility.

Kevin Jackson also only complements the three black figures he cites: “brilliant African-American musicians and writers such as Miles Davis, James Baldwin and Richard Wright…”

Does that mean that Mssrs. Davis, Baldwin, and Wright were vastly superior to all the whites listed? Hardly. Kevin Jackson is merely patronizing blacks. As I am barely familiar with the controversial, racist Davis’ musical work, I shall refrain from judging him, but I am somewhat familiar with the other two, and while there are many terms I’d use to describe their work, brilliant is not one of them. Their fame is due entirely to their being racist, in Baldwin’s case, and a Communist, in Wright’s.

Now come the negatives: “[t]he vehemently anti-communist Hungarian writer and wife-beater Arthur Koestler and, among the occupiers, the sinister but fascinating German Ernst Jünger, aesthete, entomologist and polymath.”

In case the reader does not automatically grasp that being an anti-communist is evil (because the Reds simply had to slaughter over 100 million civilians, or, as as my late, white, Trinidadian Uncle Frank said in the 1970s, “Stalin did what he had to do.”), Kevin Jackson helps him by identifying Koestler as a “wife-beater.”

The reactionary, existentialist German war hero Ernst Jünger was “sinister but fascinating,” whatever that means.

I guess that means the first 11 figures were all saints!

One reads of “endless intense conversations” in smoke-filled rooms, but Kevin Jackson provides no examples of witty repartee, or brilliant insights.

In other words, if you lived in a dorm at an OPU (overpriced, private university), or even a big-name public university while studying politics, sociology, or literature, you probably had the same experience of sex and talking points, though likely with less (cigarette, anyway) smoke, and better heating and food.

Koestler and Jünger were probably much more interesting conversation partners than the pompous lefties Kevin Jackson praised.

I learned nothing from the review, as to the quality of the book, only that the reviewer found the author’s politics to be unobjectionable.

Well, that’s it!
 

Plenty of Sex & Nowhere to Sit
Left Bank: Art, Passion and the Rebirth of Paris 1940–50
By Agnès Poirier
Reviewed by Kevin Jackson
Bloomsbury 377pp £21.99
Literary Review

[One hundred and thirty-five-word excerpt:]

For a book that is crammed with adulteries, alcoholism, betrayals, broken friendships, deportations, deprivation, drug addiction, executions, humiliation, illicit abortions, imprisonment, murder, Nazi atrocities, starvation, torture chambers (on the avenue Hoche, passers-by could hear the screams coming up from the cellars’ air vents), treason and worse, Agnès Poirier’s Left Bank is a remarkably exhilarating read.

Above all, it has a terrific cast, with, as leading players, Jean-Paul Sartre, Simone de Beauvoir, Albert Camus and Maurice Merleau-Ponty. The novelist, jazz musician and pataphysician Boris Vian, Samuel Beckett and the resident aliens Picasso and Giacometti also feature, as do brilliant African-American musicians and writers such as Miles Davis, James Baldwin and Richard Wright, the vehemently anti-communist Hungarian writer and wife-beater Arthur Koestler and, among the occupiers, the sinister but fascinating German Ernst Jünger, aesthete, entomologist and polymath.

[That leaves 1,145 words. If you hit the link, don’t complain that I didn't warn you.]

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