Tuesday, February 7, 2012

How to write a book review...

... or at least, how to start one.  Robert Lawless, whose passing is reported in a previous post was a prolific, take-no-prisoners book reviewer.  The morning of the day I learned he had died, Robert sent me an email containing just the beginning of a book review he was working on. He often sent me these reviews asking for help with proofing, but this time I think he just wanted to share his thoughts on what he obviously thought was a pretty important and yet poorly-written book:
This fascinating and necessary book is unfortunately almost destroyed by an abrading, agitating, annoying, bedeviling, beleaguering, boring, bugging, chafing, disturbing, exasperating, galling, irksome, irritating, maddening, peeving, provoking, turn-offing writing style. The author is unable to state his ideas in a straight-forward fashion but instead either uses a completely unnecessary list and an artificial word created with a slash, such as in this headache-producing sentence: "Both theorized, developed, and made popular (in academic as well as in nonacademic/community spaces) the notion that gender (i.e., notions, constructions, and embodiments of femininities and masculinities) are socially, historically, and culturally created, performed, repeated, reinforced, and policed through discourse, institutions, and material practices such as clothing, fashion, or 'drag'" (p. 6). (Notice that this sentence begins nowhere and goes nowhere.) One more example to make my point: "Masculinities, for me, refer to a heterogeneous spectrum of differently situated masculine relocated and situated sex/gender formations and performances, largely in Philippine and diasporic contexts, which were important sites in my study, but also in other overlapping Asian, indigenous/Pacific, African American and European/white contexts, which were also relevant to my fieldwork but not central to the project" (p. 6). And, my last example: "While I agree with Halberstam that female masculinity can be a 'masculinity without men' (a central premise of his book), in chapter 4, I engage and analyze Filipino examples in which (Filipino) tomboy masculinities and manhoods (which I argue can be interpreted as an indigenous/Filipino formation of fe/male masculinity and manhood) are created precisely through proximities and social intimacies with Filipino males/men, specifically alongside working class Filipino seamen" (p. 6). "Males/men"? Give me a break! All three of these sentences are taken from page six where I got my first headache, and in fact I could not read more than five or six pages a day for fear of having to go on sick leave. I will not produce any more examples but will assure the reader that such sentences appear several times on every page of this 183-page volume--many of them far more headache-producing than these three examples. (Does the Press have editors?)
Many of Robert's complete reviews can be found at the Anthropology Review Database.

1 comment:

  1. I am totally agree with your thought about book review.Thank you so much for this helpful stuff. I have never get confused or not satisfy.good job
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