Thursday, April 3, 2008

Why is the New York Times Reviewing Grisham?

The New York Times Book Review recently ran a review of John Grisham's latest legal thriller, The Appeal. I have to ask why. Don't we all know what we're getting when we read a Grisham? A fast-paced legal thriller with a surprise ending. Bad guys (big firm lawyers, multi-millionaires, environmental contaminators, soul killers) and good guys (idealistic young lawyers, cancer victims, good-hearted townspeople). Mediocre writing. The NY Times review has this to say on that topic:

It’s a shame, though, that Grisham’s grace in constructing a sophisticated story is so poorly matched by his writing. Clich├ęs and redundancies (“lavish splendor,” “a hothead with a massive ego who hated to lose”) fill the book, and at times his weakness with words is painful to watch.

Not surprisingly, a good 90% of the review is a plot description. Maybe the purpose of a review like this is to allow us all to participate in cocktail party conversations about the book and its hit-you-over-the-head obvious theme (justice for sale) without having to go to the trouble of actually reading it. Although that is a very valuable service in this instance, it’s a service I’m willing to give up. There are so many great, underappreciated books published every week that I hate to see something as valuable as a NY Times review wasted on the latest Grisham.

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