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Milne on the art of review

January 19, 2008

The Los Angeles Times on Friday brought us a rehash of a thoroughly charming 1921 essay by none other than A. A. Milne, on “The Perils of Reviewing“.

Of course in my review I said all the usual things. I said that Mr. Blank’s attitude to life was “subjective rather than objective” … and a little lower down that it was “objective rather than subjective.” I pointed out that in his treatment of the major theme he was a neo-romanticist, but I suggested that, on the other hand, he had nothing to learn from the Russians — or the Russians had nothing to learn from him: I forget which. And finally I said (and this is the cause of the whole trouble) that Antoine Vaurelle’s world-famous classic — and I looked it up in the encyclopedia — world-renowned classic, “Je Comprends Tout,” had been not without its influence on Mr. Blank. It was a good review, and the editor was pleased about it.

A few days later Mr. Blank wrote to say that, curiously enough, he had never read “Je Comprends Tout.” It didn’t seem to me very curious, because I had never read it either, but I thought it rather odd of him to confess as much to a stranger. The only book of Vaurelle’s which I had read was “Consolatrice,” in an English translation. However, one doesn’t say these things in a review.

One would think that should be among the reviewer’s bigger problems. You know. You’d think, wouldn’t you?

Maybe I’m naive.

Enjoy.

-bd

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