I started writing out my thoughts on the first few chapters of the book I’m reviewing. The journal gave me a ball park figure of 750 words for the review. So far, my review of the introduction and first two chapters has already passed 900 words! Ooops. Part of the problem is that there are a lot of things wrong with the book, and these are difficult to specify because of the deconstructivist excess of the writing. Thankfully, on the commute home today I discovered that chapter four is actually quite good. I’m so glad that I don’t have to do a hatchet job. There are three chapters to go. I’m really hoping there’s an upward trend!
One of the main problems is not necessarily what the person writes, but that the author ignores what I view as absolutely key analyses of the texts under consideration. Many times the author makes a point that rings a bell, and I take a glance at some other, earlier analysis and find the same thing. I’m sure it’s not a case of plagiarism. The author is a person I respect and like. I do think it’s a case of not bothering to go through the (admittedly very large) corpus of secondary literature on these particular works. To the untrained eye this book looks really smart (and in some ways it truly is), but it bothers me to no end that the author makes a big deal about coming up with striking “insights” that I know to have been a part of the research tradition since 1970. I live in constant fear of doing the same thing in my own work (I made a statement in an article about something in Knut Hamsun’s Pan once that I still expect to find hidden in plain sight in someone else’s analysis).
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