The business of reviewing is the closest literature comes to a competitive sport. Byron answered his first real critique in the Edinburgh Review with the beautifully acidic "English Bards and Scotch Reviewers". Posterity, on the whole, has been kinder to the poet than to his critic: it usually is. Byron himself described his response, of which he was later ostentatiously if not quite persuasively ashamed, in sporting terms: "I recollect the effect on me of the Edinburgh on my first poem; it was rage, and resistance, and redress - but not despondency nor despair. I grant that those are not amiable feelings; but, in this world of bustle and broil, and especially in the career of writing, a man should calculate upon his powers of resistance before he goes into the arena."Markovits then talks in terms of books that he, as a reviewer, cannot compete with. The whole article gives a perspective on the whole business of reviewing books that I had not thought about before.
Monday, 3 October 2005
It will be a while before I have to worry about reviews on my own account, but I did enjoy Benjamin Markovits' piece on the subject of reviews in theguardian on Saturday. Markovits was a professional basketball player (admittedly only in the second division of the German league) and he brings his experience of that game to reviewing: