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The American Bottom

I tend to use Amazon more as a resource about books than to actually purchase books. I can find publishing dates, latest editions, cover art and synopses. I can also read several pages of a book I might be interested in ordering, and I like the age recommendations if I am shopping for a young person. But, above all, I am always drawn to the reader reviews, especially reviews of books I have already read myself.

[. . .]

Then there are the reviews that I'm drawn to somewhat masochistically, those that give one-star ratings to a work that has moved me inexpressibly or influenced me indelibly. I thought it might be fun (well, depending on what your definition of "fun" is) to see what some of those one-star folks had to say about a few of my favorite books, as well as some of the books that appeared on others' lists.

Here for your amusement, completely unedited, are some heartfelt one-star Amazon book reviews! (I have left off any names, although most of them are written anonymously.)[sic throughout] (Jeanette Demain, Salon, Amazon reviewers think this masterpiece sucks,” Salon, 2 April, 2010)

The American Bottom

When people are looking for sure signs of the decline of the U.S., I would think they would need to explain themselves some if what they point to is too much allowance for the amateur and an abominable widespread inclination to thumb noses to betters. Whatever the well-wrought philosophical poeticism of the founding documents, it seems to me that it's the equivalent of a rude and impromptu finger to the king, which marked the spirit of its founding.

Many have hoped to costume themselves "betters" by mimicking gentry bemusement / irritation at the mob. I don't at all recall any great writer having much good to say about them, though. "Amateur" can be redeemed; "pretender," "hangers-on": not so much.

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Why evil may be good for the humanities

For some time now, those in English departments who sought to teach what made Great Works great, were on the defense. Departments were essentially "owned" by those who "problematized" the works, making them seem more historical documents, full of misogynistic, homophobic, racist stuff, than works of eternal genius to be studied and worshipped.

I wonder if our instinct to use the past to show how depraved our contemporaries are is now once again so strong that the tendency will once again be to make great men Gods. Gods we can enjoin, that will buoy our laughing at former neighbors and friends, whose unfamiliarity with Beckett, discomfort with Austin, means they have earned their torture, before the cracks open up, they fall away, and die.

Link: Amazon reviewers think this masterpiece sucks (Salon)


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