When I first set up this blog, I described myself in the ‘About’ page as a ‘writer and critic’, but I’ve changed this now to read “writer and reviewer’ instead. I review books on a fairly regular basis for a few different journals and magazines, and on this blog for any publishers who send me titles to read, but I’m definitely not a critic. Terry Eagleton is a critic. Frank Kermode was a critic. These are people who have an encyclopaedic knowledge of their subject, and who have a range of critical theories at their disposal with which they can interrogate a text. I can be brutal and dismissive of books I don’t think are up to scratch, but I base my critique on whether I like the title or not, and whether I think the writing is lazy or invigoratingly good. There’s not much in the way of a critical theory behind this, so it seemed dishonest, and self-aggrandising, to keep that description up there.
I’ve got a few books to get through at the moment. I’m reading Kristin Hersh’s memoir “Paradoxical Undressing” for The Skinny, then I’ve got Sam Meekings’ “The Book of Crows” for The Scottish Review of Books. After that, Constable & Robinson sent me a copy of “How I Became a Famous Novelist” by Steve Hely, which looks entertainingly vicious. It means my current Evelyn Waugh obsession has been put on hold until I can get them all safely read and written up though – such are the trials of the semi-professional book reviewer.