Sunday, May 18, 2008

Into the AIR, Ju-nior Bird-men!

I don't know why this story didn't get bigger play. Yves Rossy is a hero to the teenage boy inside us all.

The Wired story is here.

But let's be honest. The camera work can't possibly compare to that of the man in the squirrel suit:

And for those of us who admire extreme acts of data recovery...

Courtesy of Greg Frost: click here.

And for those of us who admire Michael's relentless self-promotion...

I've just recently gotten three -- count 'em, three -- rave reviews for What Can Be Saved From the Wreckage?: James Branch Cabell in the Twentieth Century. In the latest New York Review of Science Fiction, Darrell Schweitzer writes:

This is the best literary monograph I have read in a long time . . . his little treatise makes clear, in away we've never quite seen it explained before, what happened to Cabell's career and why. It is a definitive autopsy report. Even the most devoted, lifelong Cabell fan will come away with insights.

And Steven Hart writes:

Swanwick has ranged the considerable length and negligible depth of the Cabell oeuvre and come back with good news about the good stuff to be found there. If, say, the Library of America decides it needs a suitable editor to bring James Branch Cabell into the Black Jacket Club, I know just the man for the job.

And in F&SF, James Sallis writes:

Cabell is a problematic author, and to all appearances was a difficult man, but for those interested in learning more about Cabell there can hardly be a better or more readable beginning than Swanwick's monograph.

But here's what's interesting about these and many previous extremely positive reviews. The book was published in an edition of two hundred. Which implies an astonishing reviewer-to-reader ratio. I suspect it's because publisher Henry Wessells was more interested in getting the book reviewed than in making money from it, and so sent out a significant fraction of the total run to reviewers.

Stephen Saperstein Frug, on the other hand, gave what he felt was a well-reasoned and -balanced review of the book here. He would be chagrined, I suspect, to be told that it was the most negative review of it I've received to date. And yet it was.

So why was everybody else so much more enthusiastic? I suspect it's because they received their books free while he had to pay for his out of his own pocket.

Another reminder, if we needed it, to take all reviews with a grain of sale.



Stephen said...

Our Noble Author is as perspicacious as ever; for indeed I would be chagrined.

Although, to some extent pleased, since my review was mixed, so best that should be the worst it got -- for I'd hate to see WCBSFTW get any actual negative reviews.

Because, honestly, I actually liked the book a lot. See, here, I extracted the following from the end of my review; and offer it up as a blurb:

...a very entertaining read... interesting and at times (for me, anyway) laugh-out-loud funny... a good brief for Swanwick's criticism -- which someone should collect in some more-accessible form.

...which is slightly out of context, but only slightly.

Aside from the free/bought copy issue, I wonder if there isn't another difference: was I the only reviewer to have read the book without having actually read any Cabell?

Anyway, as a final word, let me say this: it is true that I gave the book as "well-reasoned and -balanced" a review as it was in my power to give. But if anyone were to ask me for a well-reasoned and balanced judgment about what reviewers to trust on this topic, my own, or Darrell Schweitzer & James Sallis*, I'd have to say the latter. (They're noted reviewers in the field; I'm Some Guy With A Web Site.) So even if my judgments were mixed (small things, but 'twere my own--), my meta-judgments fall out on WCBSFTW's side.


(* No offense to Steven Hart; I just don't know his work.)

Stephen said...

Ok, that sentence that made up the second paragraph *was* in English in my head. I claim Gremlins got it between the typing & the posting.

What I meant was: " it's for the best that my review should be the worst that WCBSFTW got...".