Wednesday, 12 October 2011

In the Bowels of a Base Book Reviewer

The gestation period for Northern Voices 13!

Twas in high Summer, or perhaps it was during a Midsummer Night's Dream, that I gave a review copy of David Goodway's 'The Seed Beneath the Snow' - a book on the development of 'libertarian ideas in England: from William Morris to Colin Ward', to a book reviewer for Northern Voices. As Winter and the Northern Voices 13 deadline now approaches, and even snow is forecast in the Highlands the review is nowhere to be seen. Indeed, the whereabouts of the review is as much a mystery as the original seed in Ignazio Silone's novel 'The Seed Beneath the Snow' the title which Dave Goodway sought to steal: readers will know that in that novel the seed was hidden by peasants from the police by feeding it into the bowels of a mule. One can only assume given the creative constipation of our present N.V. reviewer that something has got stuck in his bowels and when challenged he tells us that he doesn't get paid to produce reviews to deadlines by Northern Voices.

In the Summer of 1946, George Orwell in the Partisan Review, published his essay 'Confessions of a Book Reviewer': 'In a cold but stuffy bed-sitting room littered with ... half-empty cups of tea, a man in a moth-eaten dressing-gown sits at a rickety table, trying to find room for his typewriter among the piles of dusty papers that surround it. He cannot throw the papers away because the wastepaper basket is overflowing, and besides, somewhere among the answered letters and unpaid bills it is possible that there is a cheque for two guineas which he is nearly certain he forgot to pay into the bank. There are also letters with addresses which ought to be entered into his address book, and the thought of looking for it, or indeed looking for anything, afflicts him with acute suicidal impulses ... If things are normal with him he will be suffering from malnutrition, but if he has recently had a lucky streak he will be suffering from a hangover.'

As an example of the book reviewer's lot, George Orwell talks of a book reviewer receiving four books in the post for reviewing in six days flat, and he writes: 'Three of these books deal with subjects of which he is so ignorant that he will have to read at least fifty pages if he is to avoid making some howler ...' It seems that the only way for an editor to get reviews done efficiently and on time is to employ a team of hacks who can knock out prose to order. Orwell favours writing long reviews and having amateurs to review novels while professional reviewers could deal with more technical books. The miscreant reviewer for Northern Voices is probably writing a detail analysis of 'The Seed Beneath the Snow: From William Morris to Colin Ward a history of libertarian ideas'; though the gestation period of this particular review is seemingly endless. Orwell thinks that the honest reaction of most reviewers to most books ought to be: 'This book does not interest me in any way, and I would not write about it unless I was paid to.' Orwell makes some practical recommendations for a sensible approach to reviewing books: such as longer reviews with a 1,000 words minimum, he writes: '600 words is bound to be worthless even if the reviewer wants to write it'.

THE NEXT ISSUE OF NORTHERN VOICES - N.V.13 - IS OUT IN NOVEMBER. IT WILL HAVE COMMENT ON THE RIOTS IN THE NORTH, AND COVER THE PROBLEMS OF TAMESIDE COUNCIL, BLACKLISTING, IT WILL HAVE EXTENSIVE ARTS COVERAGE AS WELL, but it may well lack the said review of David Goodway's critique of libertarian ideas in England. Northern Voices 13 is priced £2.20 [post & package included] or £4.20 for the next two issues cheque payable to 'Northern Voices' from: c/o 52, Todmorden Road,Burnley,Lancashire. BB10 4AH.
Tel.: 0161 793 5122.

1 comment:

Rachel said...

El Editorismo takes another step closer to 'splendid isolation' (and a more than morbid obsession with Orwell and Silone).