The reviews of Zadie Smith’s NW have been, shall we say, mixed. One of the worst was in the New York Times by Michiko Kakutani. Actually, that was pretty tame by Kakutani’s standards, but nonetheless it prompted the Huffington Post to compile 11 of her meanest reviews. (Why 11 and not 10? An odd number in every sense.)
There has been a lot of critical chatter these past few weeks about the virtues of a good review versus a bad one – all of which is helpfully collated here at the Millions website.
Personally, I am all for a bad – ie negative – review. It’s not that they are great fun to write (although sometimes they can be) so much as they are a necessary counterbalance to all the fulsome blather out there and liberate readers from what they might otherwise experience as an overwhelming critical consensus. You are not alone – Ian McEwan really isn’t all he’s cracked up to be. Don’t be browbeaten into believing Jim Flynn’s The Torchlight List will be good for your reading life (and your life in general).
Perhaps it’s because of the work I’m in, perhaps it’s because I’m just not a very nice person, but I have many favourites from the bad reviews I have read over the years, but none more so than this London Review of Books one by Ian Sansom of John Fowles’s The Journals.
And you can make of it what you will that I couldn’t wait to read the book being panned afterwards.
Where do you sit in the debate about good reviews versus bad? Do you appreciate the latter? And do you have favourites of your own?
Meanwhile, we’ll post some more of the NW reviews tomorrow. The good as well as the bad.