Saturday, January 20, 2007

Astonishing Reads

Some will rejoice at this person's appearance on the blog (hi, Dad), and others will cringe (you know who you are), but Joe Queenan has an entertaining piece in tomorrow's New York Times Book Review (already online) about his book-buying habits:
Several years ago, overwhelmed by the flood of material unleashed annually by the publishing industry, I decided to establish a screening program by purchasing only books that at least one reviewer had described as “astonishing.”

Previously, I had limited my purchases to merchandise deemed “luminous” or “incandescent,” but this meant I ended up with an awful lot of novels about bees, Provence or Vermeer.

But let me stress that while I buy only books that have been designated “astonishing,” I do not buy every single “astonishing” book. For instance, Kurt Eichenwald’s “Serpent on the Rock” may very well be the “astonishing inside story of a blue-chip Wall Street firm whose massive securities fraud decimated the savings of a half a million people,” but that wording was supplied by the author’s publisher, not by some amazingly sophisticated person at O or Entertainment Weekly. So it could be a case of an entry-level cheerleader in the publicity department choosing the word “astonishing” when “hair-raising” or “jaw-dropping” might have been more appropriate.


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