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Snottiest review I have ever received

baby
 

I'm rather glad I didn't see this back in September 1994 when it first appeared in the Atlantic, a magazien whose good opinion I would have liked to have.  This is it, complete:

Love & Sleep
by John Crowley.

Bantam, 502 pages, $22.95.

Mr. Crowley's novel begins with the proposition that "once, the world was not as it has since become." Let the reader be warned by this banality. The tale wanders plotlessly from the approximate present to Elizabethan England, encumbered by metaphysical and religious baggage, arcane references, and the philosophers' stone. There are ghosts, visions, and werewolves, but not even werewolves can locate any blood in the characters.

Comments

( 34 comments — Leave a comment )
nineweaving
Aug. 17th, 2011 01:10 am (UTC)
I hope the werewolves bit him. What a maroon!

Nine
zagzagael
Aug. 17th, 2011 02:44 am (UTC)
Ouch.

I'm glad you didn't see it then, too.
proteon_nine
Aug. 17th, 2011 04:28 am (UTC)
I laughed. It'd be interesting to see what books that reviewer liked.
murasaki_1966
Aug. 17th, 2011 06:41 am (UTC)
Probably contemporary realist fiction. Which is every bit as fantastical to me as contemporary fantasy fiction.
lillibet
Aug. 17th, 2011 05:29 am (UTC)
For people who do not like this sort of thing, this is the sort of thing they will not like.

Glad that it comes to you when the sting isn't fresh.
movingfinger
Aug. 17th, 2011 05:41 am (UTC)
Wow. That may be among the snottiest reviews anyone has received.
anselmo_b
Aug. 17th, 2011 07:49 am (UTC)
Aegypt's in the air II
It's too bad for her that Miss Adams didn't like the book, but as they say, de gustibus non est disputandum. However, I wonder if she really gave it a chance at all, whether she did read the whole of it. Maybe she went through the first third, and coming upon the passage below she decided that it summed up the whole novel for her. Maybe she'd paid attention enough to realize that the story inside was somehow the story outside too. But then she was not diligent enough to make sure that the book she held in her hands was really the same that is described therein; which it is not.
Anyway, one could make the case that she plagiarized a bit of the novel in order to thrash it. Naughty.
I just happened to notice because I’m rereading Aegypt right now.

«In Book Two (which lay before Pierce) he would arrive in England, in the reign of Elizabeth, meet poets and magicians, and become a spy, or at least an intelligencer; and there would be plots, an execution, a severed head.

And yet in a sense there were really no people at all, no events in the book; all that was solid was thought; the characters were nothing but intimations of change in human form. The only real character was time; it was time that went through the transforming agonies of the hero, was bound, made to suffer, learned to change and arise again. Time’s body.

Maybe that’s why Kraft had left the book unfinished; maybe he had never intended it to be a book, a book with a plot and settings, at all.»
mrwaggish
Aug. 17th, 2011 08:39 am (UTC)
It's not terribly witty for a pan. Was it credited to anyone? Vince Passaro?

My favorite pithy pan is of The Clash's final album Cut The Crap: "Cut the 'Cut the'."

In that spirit, you'd think that the reviewer could have been clever enough to say. "Love and Sleep: No and yes."
crowleycrow
Aug. 17th, 2011 12:53 pm (UTC)
Oh thanks for that. A brilliant dish that now anyone can use. I am reminded also of the review of a performance of Hamlet (the New Yorker:) "X played the king as though afraid someone might play the ace."
mrwaggish
Aug. 17th, 2011 06:09 pm (UTC)
I can't resist quoting the relevant bit from Spinal Tap:

Marty: Let's talk about your reviews a little bit...regarding 'Intravenus
de Milo': "This tasteless cover is a good indication of the lack of
musical invention within. The musical growth rate of this band
cannot even be charted. They are treading water in a sea of
retarded sexuality and bad poetry."
Nigel: That's, that's nit picking, isn't it?
Marty: 'The Gospel According to Spinal Tap': "This pretentious ponderous
collection of religious rock psalms is enough to prompt the
question: "What day did the Lord create Spinal Tap and couldn't
he have rested on that day too?" "
David: Never heard that one!
Derek: That's a good one, that's a good one!
Marty: The review you had on 'Shark Sandwich'...which was merely a two
word review - just said "shit sandwich." Umm....
Derek: Where'd they print that, where'd they print that?
David: Where did that appear?
Nigel: That's not real, is it?
Derek: You can't print that.
crowleycrow
Aug. 18th, 2011 12:58 am (UTC)
I am not alone!
(Anonymous)
Aug. 26th, 2011 04:13 am (UTC)
Oh thanks for that.
That is the best one-sentence theater review ever! But it was actually 20-year-old Willa Cather, in a U of Nebraska student newspaper reviewing a performance of King Lear. Traveling theater companies in the Midwest were warned about her reviews.
crowleycrow
Aug. 26th, 2011 11:04 am (UTC)
Re: Oh thanks for that.
Really! Thanks for THAT.
crowleycrow
Aug. 17th, 2011 12:59 pm (UTC)
The reviewer was Phoebe-Lou Adams, and she gets a link:
http://www.theatlantic.com/past/docs/about/people/plabio.htm
mrwaggish
Aug. 17th, 2011 06:06 pm (UTC)
"Phoebe-Lou Adams is well known for the precision and wit of Brief Reviews, her monthly column about current books, which has appeared regularly, under various titles, in The Atlantic Monthly since 1952."

I think that says it all, doesn't it?
whatifoundthere
Aug. 19th, 2011 05:45 am (UTC)
Here is a sampling of her reviews over the years. I really despise her style, and I swear I'm not just saying this because I'm a fan of our gracious host. It's heavy on smarm, light on wit, and far too knowing. Mr. Crowley deserves humbler and subtler reviewers than that, even if they end up disliking his books in the end.
(Anonymous)
Aug. 20th, 2011 12:25 pm (UTC)
I always liked the pithy review of The Incredible Lightness of Being. Review simply stated "The incredible longness of watching". Don't remember who said it.
glennza
Aug. 20th, 2011 12:28 pm (UTC)
I always liked the pithy review of The Incredible Lightness of Being. Review simply stated "The incredible longness of watching". Don't remember who said it.
(Anonymous)
Aug. 22nd, 2011 06:54 am (UTC)
"Guido Nazzo is nazzo guido."
jenlev
Aug. 17th, 2011 09:45 am (UTC)
Ouch and what a loss to the reviewer not to be able to open the mind and heart. So many people want instant satisfaction without any intellectual or emotional work of any kind. It's a shame really.
Rodger Cunningham
Aug. 17th, 2011 12:24 pm (UTC)
Probably one of those reviewers that didn't realize the book was part of a series. You have your publisher to blame for that.
crowleycrow
Aug. 17th, 2011 12:41 pm (UTC)
To a degree, yes. Bantam is a mass-market house at heart but one where an ardent ambitious young man became publisher by an unusual route, and he loved my work and published it (the first two Aegypt books in addition to Little, Big) in the face of disappointing sales and a baffled sales force, only acceding to the general unwisdom that no reader would buy the first volume of what was projected as a multi-volume novel until the others appeared (hey, J.K. Rowling had not yet been published) and the fact that subsequent volumes were, well, subsequent volumes had to be hid from readers, the idea being to sell books to readers despite their contents. (Bantam also published the third after my mentor was gone; I knew I was being effectually discarded when the original cover design, featuring the popular raised letters signifying worth, was replaced by a cover without them.)

Edited at 2011-08-17 12:51 pm (UTC)
(Anonymous)
Aug. 17th, 2011 02:48 pm (UTC)
snarky claptrap
jackfirecat
Aug. 17th, 2011 07:18 pm (UTC)
Me no Leika
mackenrivers
Aug. 18th, 2011 12:55 am (UTC)
Werewolves don't eat blood, do they? or not especially, I don't think.
crowleycrow
Aug. 18th, 2011 12:56 am (UTC)
More flesh, I think, though the blood comes along with, see Merchant of Venice, Act V.
pattytempleton
Aug. 18th, 2011 03:01 pm (UTC)
That is what I like to call some bullshit.
womzilla
Aug. 26th, 2011 01:22 am (UTC)
Baby wombat icon love!
mattboggan
Aug. 20th, 2011 07:58 am (UTC)
Ah, speaking of which
... sad review, but reading the comments, a thought came back to me, one that I woke up with this morning, so it probably means that I first dreamed it:

John, I would like to know, in the event that some producer offers you to buy the rights for an adaptation of "Little, Big" and/ or "AEgypt," 1) would you accept, 2) which director would you like to see at the helm for each title and 3) is there a format you would prefer (a film for Little, Big, maybe in two parts like "The Best of Youth" and a series for AEgypt with four (of course) seasons and four to five episodes each season)?

These are idle thoughts, but I hope they are entertaining to you and the esteemed crowd here.
womzilla
Aug. 26th, 2011 01:25 am (UTC)
My temptation is to say, "Well, that's The Atlantic for you". I was just yesterday wondering if they were queuing up their once-a-decade essay, "Science Fiction isn't literature and you should be ashamed of reading it". I'm pretty sure one of their outbursts along those lines was still fresh when this review appeared.

I actually like the journalism of The Atlantic a great deal, but the book reviews do nothing for me. And now they do less.
(Anonymous)
Sep. 26th, 2011 12:41 pm (UTC)
A hello from an old friend, Jess Schickel
John, Hello,

I think often of Hazel and Zoe and wonder where they are on their journey. I see you now teach at Yale. Wonderful. How is Laurie and her film making? So many questions.

Hope you're all well and happy,
Jess
www.Chagrinandbearitall.blogspot.com
crowleycrow
Sep. 26th, 2011 01:22 pm (UTC)
Re: A hello from an old friend, Jess Schickel
Hi Jess! Too much to tell in public (almost all good, but) -- so write to my Yale address, john.crowley@yale.edu, and get more.
(Anonymous)
Oct. 6th, 2011 05:12 pm (UTC)
The Aegypt Cycle (Quartet? Vasty Novel?)
Just finished Endless things this morning. Am about to write an e-mail to a friend recommending it strongly.

Okay, it's not for everyone. If you are deeply concerned with Harry "Rabbit" Angstrom's infidelities, then minor concerns like metaphysical existence will probably not capture your fancy, although there is much to compare between Mr. Crowley and Mr. Updike in terms of richness of prose and the like. Also, Mr. Angstrom's journey parallels Pierce Moffat's with one notable exception. Rabbit is simply bewildered and overwhelmed by the change in the world, Pierce is watching it unfold, as he can; both men are helpless to prevent it.

What spoke to me most as I read was the subtle way in which the characters changed with the transition from one metaphysical age to another. Pierce is aware of the transition and seemingly unaware when it was complete.

I take exception to the notion that the characters are somehow allegorical figures--at one point or another I have known analogues of every character here.

Masterful work Mr. Crowley!
(Anonymous)
Oct. 6th, 2011 05:28 pm (UTC)
The Aegypt Cycle (Quartet? Vasty Novel?)
Just finished Endless things this morning. Am about to write an e-mail to a friend recommending it strongly.

Okay, it's not for everyone. If you are deeply concerned with Harry "Rabbit" Angstrom's infidelities, then minor concerns like metaphysical existence will probably not capture your fancy, although there is much to compare between Mr. Crowley and Mr. Updike in terms of richness of prose and the like. Also, Mr. Angstrom's journey parallels Pierce Moffat's with one notable exception. Rabbit is simply bewildered and overwhelmed by the change in the world, Pierce is watching it unfold, as he can; both men are helpless to prevent it.

What spoke to me most as I read was the subtle way in which the characters changed with the transition from one metaphysical age to another. Pierce is aware of the transition and seemingly unaware when it was complete.

I take exception to the notion that the characters are somehow allegorical figures--at one point or another I have known analogues of every character here.

Masterful work Mr. Crowley!
( 34 comments — Leave a comment )