My brother’s comments about my recent string of book reviews have prompted me to say a word about my approach. He writes:
Oh, and I have a new goal in life: to write a book that meets my brother’s critical approval, which is pretty darn stringent, as you know if you’ve been following his series of book reviews.
This is certainly true. While others have raved about Martindale’s book, I was somewhat tepid in my commendation of it. This simply underscores the need to understand a particular reviewer’s tastes and the need to read multiple reviews of books (something I attempt to do of the books and movies I review as well).
I will continue to be critical, but my hope is that my recommendations will actually mean something. I reserve good recommendations for books that I think are worth taking the time to read or movies I think are worth seeing, just as I reserve my standing ovations for performances I think are actually outstanding. I have found American audiences much more free with standing ovations than the British, and I realized that they had lost meaning in America. My goal with my reviews is simply to give an accurate assessment of the work and to preserve my own credibility by not giving praise where it has not been duly earned.
Not every book published is worth reading, and a reviewers job is to identify for everyone else which books actually are worth the time and effort. The limitation that I experience in reviewing Martindale’s work is that I am not familiar enough with the secondary literature on Lewis to be able to compare it to an equivalent work. After reading Martindale’s book, I began to wonder why there is a secondary literature on Lewis’s work at all. Lewis seems too clear to actually be a serious object of study himself. But this is obviously a problem with the genre, not Martindale’s work itself.
Really, what this all means is that if I ever publish, the reviewers are going to have a field day with whatever I churn out.