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Kirkus Review 
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Heinlein Biographer

Joined: Thu Apr 10, 2008 1:33 pm
Posts: 1024
Post Kirkus Review
Stacy at Tor just faxed over the Kirkus Reviews dated June 1, 2010.

I think I can't quote the whole thing, as it's proprietary, but let's see if I can give enough abstract to give you a sense of the flavor of it:


It may surprise readers schooled in Heinlein's stern, even quasi-fascistic visions of the future to learn that their author was a sometime liberal Democrat involved in postwar party politics in his adopted California. It will not surprise them to know that Heinlein, on the road to a lifetime's service in the Navy until being drummed out for medical reasons, was infamous among subordinates as a by-the-book disciplinarian of a Captain Bligh -- or perhaps Queeg -- bent . . . . The author clearly has a handle on every moment of Heinlein's life, including the unpleasant (a nasty divorce) and controversial (trash-talking L. Ron Hubbard) episodes, but sometimes trips over awkward, overworked locutions.

Less engaging than Asimov's autobiography, which remains a standard, but still a welcome account of the development of an important popular writer.


Someone at work who saw it called it a "fabulous review." Frankly I thought it unpleasantly snotty, not quite clear on what he wanted to say and how, and somewhat ignorant -- which always makes self-righteousness just that bit more hard to take.

Still, this will sell books to libraries, which is the main thing: "Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof."


Thu Jul 29, 2010 2:28 pm
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Joined: Thu Aug 21, 2008 12:40 pm
Posts: 540
Post Re: Kirkus Review
Quote:
ometime liberal Democrat involved in postwar party politics


I would have called mid to late 1930's "prewar", but that's just me.

Quote:
Still, this will sell books to libraries, which is the main thing


Samuel Johnson said it best: "No man but a fool writes, except for money."


Thu Jul 29, 2010 6:59 pm
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Post Re: Kirkus Review
[quote="BillMullins
Quote:
Still, this will sell books to libraries, which is the main thing


Samuel Johnson said it best: "No man but a fool writes, except for money."[/quote]
Possibly -- but practical experience suggests no man but a fool writes because "Ich kann nicht anders.


Fri Jul 30, 2010 6:58 am

Joined: Tue Jul 21, 2009 6:36 pm
Posts: 7
Post Re: Kirkus Review
"Still, this will sell books to libraries"

I'd rather see a review in Booklist to sell to libraries. (or perhaps Library Journal or for academic libraries Choice) We don't get Kirkus at our library. I don't think we have for over 25 years. We do get Booklist and LJ. If it gets in Booklist it is a recommend to purchase, except the Reference book section. What you really want is for people to ask their libraries to get that new biography about Robert Heinlein. :lol:
Kirkus will sell, its just the first that you need.

Hope all your reviews are excellent.

Rosie


Fri Jul 30, 2010 8:23 pm
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Post Re: Kirkus Review
Rosie wrote:
"Still, this will sell books to libraries"

I'd rather see a review in Booklist to sell to libraries. (or perhaps Library Journal or for academic libraries Choice) We don't get Kirkus at our library. I don't think we have for over 25 years. We do get Booklist and LJ. If it gets in Booklist it is a recommend to purchase, except the Reference book section. What you really want is for people to ask their libraries to get that new biography about Robert Heinlein. :lol:
Kirkus will sell, its just the first that you need.

Hope all your reviews are excellent.

Rosie

None has been bad; all have contained some gratuitous sniping bits; on the whole I'm happy so far. I'm waiting for the first really bad review.


Sat Jul 31, 2010 8:21 am
Heinlein Nexus
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Joined: Thu Apr 10, 2008 8:10 am
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Post Re: Kirkus Review
No reviewer feels they have done their job unless they come up with something negative to say, so pay no attention to anything you don't already agree with.


Sat Jul 31, 2010 8:24 pm
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Post Re: Kirkus Review
PeterScott wrote:
No reviewer feels they have done their job unless they come up with something negative to say


Oh, pish.

If I had a nickel for every time I've encountered some variation on this kind of reviewer-bashing, I'd double the (laughable) income I've derived in nearly thirty years of reviewing books (and music and software and office gear). I just finished writing 2200 words about Mr. Patterson's book and I do believe I managed to repress my neurotic need to aggrandize myself at the expense of the work at hand. Read my copy in the October issue of Locus and judge for yourself.

(And FWIW, the Kirkus review is indeed snotty and, I would say, imprecise, predictable, and lazy.)

--Russell Letson (forum membership activation pending)


Fri Aug 27, 2010 11:01 am
PITA Bred
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Post Re: Kirkus Review
You may be an exception, but I can think of very few book or film reviews (and I read many of both) that can escape the need to find something, no matter how trivial or labored, to tap-dance upon. There is a germ of truth in Peter's comment; perhaps it's because readers won't accept a completely glowing review without a contrary point for... scaling.

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"Hier stehe ich. Ich kann nicht anders." - Luther
In the end, I found Heinlein is finite. Thus, finite analysis is needed.


Fri Aug 27, 2010 11:19 am
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Post Re: Kirkus Review
JamesGifford wrote:
I can think of very few book or film reviews (and I read many of both) that can escape the need to find something, no matter how trivial or labored, to tap-dance upon. There is a germ of truth in Peter's comment; perhaps it's because readers won't accept a completely glowing review without a contrary point for... scaling.


Another possibility: Few books, films, recordings, or whatever are perfect, and some imperfections might be worth mentioning in the course of an honest description and evaluation. Reviewers will set the threshold according to their own lights, and in brief treatments it may not be worth the trouble to mention any infelicity or flaw at all.

My job is to describe what's in front of me; to try to put it into historical/cultural context; and to articulate a reaction to it--not just thumbs-up or -down, but how it made me feel, what it reminded me of, the kind of enjoyment or enlightenment or whatever I experienced. And if I see a flaw or lapse of taste or error of fact or whatever, and it seems to be worth mentioning, I mention it. That's part of "what's this thing like," and readers who are looking for something else are free to look elsewhere for it.

In the case of a piece of non-fiction, particularly one with a high profile thanks to being the first such to treat its subject (himself a complex and difficult figure) at full length, it would be folly to expect nothing but unqualified praise. Nevertheless, the early non-thumbnail reviews of Mr. Patterson's book I've seen so far describe pretty much the book I read--and they're what I would call positive.

A side note: For the two decades I've written for Locus, the most frequent complaint I have heard is that we don't run negative reviews. It appears that we can't do anything right.


Fri Aug 27, 2010 12:50 pm
PITA Bred
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Joined: Wed Apr 09, 2008 12:17 pm
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Post Re: Kirkus Review
I will tread lightly here, but I don't perceive Locus as an impartial entity in the field. It exists both as part of, and in service to, the overlap between writers, readers and to some extent publishers.

In other words, I would look to Locus more to find lengthy book notices than critical reviews. That's not intended as any insult; as notifier to the community Locus consistently serves with distinction. It's just not positioned to be a critical observer.

I suspect that really crappy books are either not mentioned or mentioned briefly, in that "notifier" role - hence "no negative reviews."

_________________
"Hier stehe ich. Ich kann nicht anders." - Luther
In the end, I found Heinlein is finite. Thus, finite analysis is needed.


Fri Aug 27, 2010 1:17 pm
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