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FRL Spotlight Review: Indigestion

So I did my presentation on “Perfect Past,” Nabokov’s wonderfully, impossibly flawless autobiographical essay, and it went well, and then we turned to “The Doomed in their Sinking,” a 1972 essay by William Gass (collected in The World Within the Word). This is a technically excellent, masterfully erudite essay that outrages me on two points. First, a book review is no place to write about your crazy mother, at least not the details Gass includes; it’s craft put to cruel use. Second, on my second reading I finally realized this was a book review, in fact a review of two books that get almost incidental mention. Am I the only reader who would like reviewers to review books? Reviewers too often seem to be enchanted with their own craft and preoccupied with their own themes, as if merely advising a reader whether a book was worth reading, and why, was beneath them. Thank goodness for local papers and literary blogs doing the gruntwork hifalutin reviewers can’t be bothered with.

I had my own comfort: good as Gass is, he’s still no Nabokov.

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