Sunday, April 26, 2009

Several words on single-word reviews

Slamma has just submitted a single-word review, and is understandably concerned about whether it's going to be accepted or not.

Single-word reviews are the best! Some artists don't deserve any more than a one-word review, anyway... and some don't deserve anything less.

The great pity of reviewing is that you can't really go much further down than a single-word review. How would you write a review after that - using only punctuation?


That'd be a touch too ambiguous, even for this little reviewer.

What's good about a single-word reviews is you get an opportunity to respond in kind to a pithy title:

A Short History of the World, by H G Wells

A Brief History of Time, by Stephen Hawking

Steal this Album, by System of a Down

Swear words can really come into their own:


It, by Stephen King

The trick, surely, would be to find an appropriate word that actually performed the task of reviewing without giving too much away about the book, something both adequately descriptive and adequately critical. Maybe some books would be too hard for even the English language, but when there exist words like antidisestablishmentarianism and supercallafragalisticexpialadocious waiting to be used, that seems doubtful.

Possible points of contention in writing single-word reviews:
- To what extent is punctuation allowable? A well-placed ellipsis can do wonders for content, while a few hyphens would allow you to join several words together into one for the purposes of a single-word review.

- Can one make words up?

- How would you go about editing a single-word review?


Irobot said...

Was that Shit as in that you found it awful, or Shit, that was a scary book?

TimT said...

I haven't actually read it, it was an example of the sort of review that could be written, so I can't say for sure!

As a point of curiosity, the word verification is 'ingnest'. Indneed!

Irobot said...

I mistook it as a succinct review. It was the latter for me and the book does nothing for the image of clowns.

Maria said...

I read a Stephen King foreword where he has noted that the connection between "It" and "Shit" has been made before.

I think "Shit" would be an interesting review for books like the "Not So Little Book of Dung"

TimT said...

Stephen King veers madly from very very good to very very bad. A lot of his early stuff is perfectly-honed horror fiction, but I think he's gone off the rails with some of his later books.

I don't think he even *knows* which of his books are good and which are bad, he churns out so many of them - he's like the mother with 50 babies. He loves each of them, but perhaps can't remember all the details about each and every one of them.

I do want to read 'It'. I hope it's like 'Misery'. But it might turn out to be like 'Gerald's Game'.

Maria said...

How about for this book

Drilling: The Manual of Methods, Applications and ManagementReview


TimT said...

There's a rather attractive ambiguity in that review - is 'boring' there as a description of an emotional state, or as a physical description?

Maybe I should have a poll. Is this book a) boring or b) boring or c) None of the above?

Maria said...

I must admire King for managing to get so much writing out and actually, quite a bit of it is very good.

On the other hand perhaps there should be a colour or symbol rating scheme on his books so we wouldn't waste our times reading the schlock as there is so much King to read, you really want to concentrate on the good stuff.

I really liked Misery. haven't read Gerald's Game and from the sounds of it, shouldn't bother. What are your King recommendations?

Maybe it's hard for a horror writer to know when a horror piece is really effective because no piece - good or bad - really horrifies them after THEY'VE written it and edited it so it's all the same to them, really.

I wonder if crime writers think that when they are reviewing their work, they start at the beginning and think "oh bloody obvious the butler did it from page one! I gave too many clues away too early!" just 'cos they know the ending but all the rest of their audience would have been surprised. Maybe they can't be good judges of their own writing like that.

TimT said...

I reckon his early stories in 'Nightshift' are a real treat. I don't care so much for a story that gives me the willies, but I do like how some of his stories are gripping, or have a really clever examination of an interesting idea. 'The Running Man' is great, for the same reasons.

I never really liked 'Carrie'. The nice thing about 'Misery' was that he is able to get the feeling of claustrophobia and theme of obsession/paranoia/insanity just right, as opposed to in 'Gerald's Game', which goes off the rails.

Maria said...

Hmmm - I liked "The Running Man" too. I heard somewhere that he wrote that book in less than a week, pretty much. I don't know if that's true but considering how much he writes it wouldn't surprise me. It is a good examination of that concept.

TimT said...

I think he did, yes - he may actually have written it in just one or two days. I think he claims as much in the introduction. My copy of the story is in Newcastle, I think, so I can't say for sure.

TimT said...

I think I said 'I think' too much in that previous comment.

Irobot said...

I agree with you regarding Misery. I actually read it straight through at one sitting as I could not put it down. The same could not be said for Gerald's Game. I am usually bloody minded when it comes to reading. If I start a book, I finish it. Not so with that one. It was too bizarre.

Maria, The Green Mile and Needful Things were two excellent reads and and Tim was right about King's short stories. Stephen King wrote some excellent short stories, including The Running Man, under the pseudonym of Richard Bachman. One excellent short story is The Long Walk.

If you like westerns with a touch of science fiction, my son informs me that this is known as speculative fiction, try the Dark Tower series.

Short stories, try Three Past Midnight. It is includes a story called The Library Policeman which will make you think twice about not returning that book.

RebeccaH said...

My single word review for any book I've ever read that I really loved or really hated was: Damn!

TimT said...

Now that's really efficient, using the one word for books you both love and hate. Half a word per book!

Email: timhtrain - at -

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