First question: how many ‘reviews’ of Bill Clinton’s book does the NYT plan on running? We’re up to three now, by my count.
Second question: How many times does Larry McMurtry have to utterly fail at his assigned task before people will stop offering him work as a reviewer? Bob Somerby has examined the pathetic failures of McMurtry’s “reviews” here, here, here and here (he’s nothing if not thorough). In today’s Times McMurtry’s sprawling ramble contains the following complaint:
When asked to review this big puffy plum cake of an autobiography, I at once agreed, expecting to have the book the next day. After all, we’re an A.S.A.P., next-day America now – pretty much everything desirable in the world of goods can be had overnight. But not, as it turned out, Bill Clinton’s book. He wasn’t finished. He was writing it in longhand. He’s still sending in pages to his publisher, I was told.
THe good news on the review from which this passage emerged: it’s not a hatchet job like Kakutani’s review. The bad news is, it doesn’t appear to be a review at all. It’s almost as if he never recieved the book.
Now, aside from a little attention paid to words actually written in the first 70 pages about Bill Clinton’s childhood, there are virtually no specific references to the book–a comment that politics seems to dominate more than, say, sex (shocking!) is as close as we get to actual commentary on the book. We’re treated to meandering asides, speculation about Bill Clinton’s sex life, and basically just a lot of filler.
I assume the the Times employs someone as a editor of the book review (but it wouldn’t shock me if they didn’t). What is that editor doing? If I were that person, and I recieved this review, two things would occur to me. First, it looks suspiciously like our noted man of letters didn’t really get much past page 70. Second, I can’t possibly go on calling myself an editor of a book review if I published this. I don’t know if the appropriate thing to do would be to demand McMurtry rewrite it, or quietly pay him and find a real reviewer. But one of those paths would clearly have to be followed.