One advantage of being the L.A. Times deputy book editor was this: I rarely reviewed a book I didn’t like.
Every week, I sorted through piles and piles of new books for only those things that resonated with me — if something didn’t, I wouldn’t write about it.
But what happened if I was a hundred pages into a book before I realized it was a dog?
What would I do then … drop it?
Are you crazy? I couldn’t do that — I’d already committed too much time to it! I had to review it! So, there were a few options open to me:
- Damn it with faint praise
- Forget faint praise and be ruthless — break its back just like Bane
- Give most of the review space to the subject, not the actual book … and then finish off the piece with a sentence about how the book was”helpful” or “serviceable” (which I guess sounds like the first option). It sounds like praise, but it isn’t. Calling a book “helpful” puts it in the same category as a shovel. Or a Boy Scout.