Online dating and book reviews

CoverWe all have at least one story in us. But very few of us will ever write a book. Even a blog may be a stretch too far. Which leaves us with the option of the book review.

The nay-sayers will be quick to question the value of book reviews, but let it be known: on any catalogue, a book displayed with a picture of its cover, a brief description of its contents and followed by a couple of short book reviews is far more likely to be read.

I’m not going to tell you how to do this – you’ve probably all read a gazillion reviews anyway, but here’s a few hints on maybe what not to do:

  • Saying: “I loved/hated this book/film” with a big fat full stop at the end of the sentence just isn’t enough. Not unless you’re Stephen Fry, and even then.
  • If you’re still talking after 3 minutes, you have gone on for too long. About 50 written words should do it. Just piqué our interest. That is all.
  • Don’t mislead – for example, if you didn’t actually read the whole book, say so and say why. That in itself is valuable for a reader to know.

If you’ve got a real block about reviewing anything, try reviewing yourself. There may come a time in your life when you want to meet more people. You want to date, or pursue a relationship and so far no-one’s come knocking on your door. It’s online dating time for you. In other words: You will have to book review yourself. Follow the same rules for writing book reviews (as above). But to get fully into the zone with it, I recommend reading the personal ads in the The Times Literary Supplement.

CoverI once shared a subscription to this behemoth of literary reviews with a friend. We tried, we really did. But the bulk of the reviews were on books we sheepishly admitted we would never read. But we both loved the Personal Ads column designed especially to cater for: “middle-class, well educated, intellectuals”. That’s us. You get just 30 words to convince someone to take a punt on you. They are succinct wee gems of the self. Have a look at these two compilations to get you started: They Call me Naughty Lola and Sexually I’m More of  a Switzerland. Here’s a couple of examples:

I celebrated my fortieth birthday by cataloguing my collection of bird feeders. Next year I am hoping for sexual intercourse. And a cake. Join my mailing list at box no. 6831. Man.

Or the brutally brief

I am not an Accountant. Box no. 7452

 

CoverThen just do it. I bash out my short book reviews fairly quickly, on desk, at work. After they’re done, mind not to stand between me and the Catalogue Computer. I like to elbow my way across the library to see the cover of the book I have just reviewed on that Recently Reviewed moving banner thingy. My pleasures are simple.

Writing reviews of books, or films or ourselves comes down to one’s own opinion. So let those babies out into an unsuspecting world. May they thrive.

Because best of all, here at last is something you cannot possibly do wrong.

My Culture heroes #1 Stephen Fry

Stephen Fry
Stephen Fry

With the aforementioned Jeeves and Wooster watching, I feel it’s time to salute one of my heroes Mr Stephen Fry. He’s a Renaissance man and a mighty fine writer. Plus he’s anything but a Luddite, check out his web site Stephen Fry to get a flavour of the many strings to his bow.

I think my first encounter with this strangely alluring gent was his role in Blackadder as the unctuous Lord Melchett. Or was it him as Oscar Wilde with young Jude Law as Bosie (what admirable casting on both counts)? Or Fry and Laurie? I’m not sure, but he made an impression.

Here’s a few choice Fry selections from his back catalogue:
Making History – what if you could go back in time and stop Adolf Hitler even being born? That’s the pretext of this supersmart novel. I’ve read a heck of a lot of time travel novels, and this is one of the best.

Stephen Fry in America
Stephen Fry in America

Moab is my washpot – Stephen’s autobiography. It’s a toe curlingly honest depiction of his youth, naughty public school days and thereafter.

QI – hosted by Stephen – gave rise to The Book of General Ignorance,  a great tool to bash foolish facts and beliefs.

Coming soon: Stephen Fry in America.

And of course there’s plenty more Stephen Fry stuff at the library.