Thursday, December 30, 2010
Review :: Englewood Review of Books' Quarterly Print Edition, Vol. 01, Num. 01
In my family, Christmas extends all the way to Epiphany. My wife and I open our gifts to one another on January 6, remembering the gifts the astrologers brought Jesus in Bethlehem. So, Mom and Dad (if you do in fact read this blog), it’s not too late to slip a subscription to Englewood Review of Books’ Quarterly Print Edition in the mail (hint hint).
Joking aside, I highly recommend ERB’s new Quarterly Print Edition, whether as a Christmas gift or as a worthwhile addition to your own reading list.
A wise professor once told me that the first step in writing a good book review is to “read, read, read lots of reviews.” I took his words to heart. I began reading nearly every book review I could lay my hands on--Commonweal, The New York Review of Books, reviews in various academic journals. I like books, and I like even better discovering new, worthwhile books to be reading. This is what good book reviews do, so I found myself enraptured in reviews. (I sound a bit like a librarian mystic.)
Over the past year and a half, I’ve found myself eagerly looking forward to ERB’s weekly email update. It features a number of homegrown reviews, links to books reviewed well elsewhere, and always a bit of poetry. I’ve added any number of books to my Amazon wish list after discovering them as I scrolled through the electronic version.
But a good book review is so much more than marketing and promotion. In fact, it’s much more than even directed reading. I realized this more and more as paged through ERB’s Print Edition, Vol. 01, Num. 01. A good review is in itself literary in some sense; it is itself a contribution to the dialogue.
I realize that all along ERB was keeping up the conversation about good books in its subscriber email updates. But there is something about holding the physical object in your hands, turning the pages, marking a particularly well-crafted comment with a √ in the margin. Michael J. Bowling’s review of Anthony Dancer’s new guide to the life and thought of William Stringfellow, An Alien in a Strange Land, birthed in me a fascination with Stringfellow that ERB’s many electronic reflections on Stringfellow never did. Similarly, Brad Fuhauff’s take on Amy Hungerford’s Postmodern Belief challenged my assumptions about belief and meaning. And my curiosity would likely never have moved in the direction of Seamus Heaney’s most recent collection of poems had Brett Foster not held up this new volume as a meditation on the beauty of human community and friendship revealed by the experience of frailty and fracture.
A good review doesn’t sell you a book; it doesn’t force a book upon you (or, if it is negative, drive away the text as unclean). A good review makes you curious about a book. ERB’s new Quarterly Print Edition has piqued my curiosity. I doubt there can be a higher recommendation.