Dark hearts and book reviews

Mark Grimsley is reassuring ACW blog readers that they need not fear our selling them down the river in exchange for review copies of books. I agree.

But here's the tricky part. When I was younger with time heavy on my hands, I would humor the lady book review editors of the local newspaper and take on books that were easy review fodder: lots of problems, lots of weakness make entertaining reviews.

Nowadays I tend to avoid much new work. The publicists are good enough to query first and I discourage their sending material I know I will denounce. (Exception: I reviewed McPherson's Antietam souvenir for newspapers when it came out because it was emblematic of bad public history, opportunism, and the failure of a certain type of aggregation.)

Thus, I am now more sparing in the reading of bad books and I suppose it hurts this blog. The tendency is to welcome books one might like.

Ethical dilemma: hard-working publicists are hoping for mention of work in a field where one is lucky to get a review or two 18 months after a book comes out.

Bloggy solution: put up multiple posts alternating good with the bad. Print reviewers can't do that and no book is all bad or all good.

Time/motion study: the savings a reviewer achieves on the price of buying a new hardback (say $35-$40?) can in no way compensate for the time invested in reading the book carefully and then writing about it. Even if we were writing for newspapers and taking the usual $100 honors per review in addition to the free copy, it would not work out in terms of incentive.

Suspicions are unwarranted. Praise tends to be real in this medium. Trust your bloggers.