Thursday, April 10, 2014

AWP Seattle 2014, part 4: How to write a good bad review

That is to say, if you are reviewing something horrible, how do you say so in a way that makes someone want to read your review? The panel had several points to make, and illustrated them with marvelous devastating examples. Martin Amis on Norman Mailer:  "It is clear that this book was written by someone who must come up with $500,000 annually for alimony."

Of course funny is good, but you have to earn it. You must demonstrate (by your own example) that you can tell if something is well-written or not; you must claim some kind of standing, whether as a defender of literature or a disappointed reader of Regency romances; you must not kick lousy or novice writers, but only those who really should know better.

It reminded me of a similar problem that confronted me when I used to review restaurants for the Claremont Courier. I didn't want to kick a modest place when it was already down. In those instances I preferred not to review the place at all (unless the owner insisted--this happened, and they were never ever grateful for the feedback). I needed to show my cooking/eating chops by explaining what had been done wrong, and how it should have been done (e.g., frying pommes frites in a single step rather than in two steps). And damn, it had to be funny, or at least sly. Once I reviewed a sports bar called Heroes. I reviewed it in heroic couplets.

Iambic verse makes not a courtly ballad;
therefore, I sing you now of taco salad.

The whites and browns of food are here most seen,
the least, the bane of little boys:  the Green.
Lettuce, pickles:  these are not unnerving;
Do jalape├▒os (stuffed) count as a Serving?
Why "Heroes"? for no bravery's required
(unless, perhaps, your charge card has expired):
the offerings familiar, their sole daring
a surcharge charged if you're inclined to sharing.
Desserts are straight from Mom, who did not bake
this apple pie, nor yet this chocolate cake.
Boys of all age and gender: here lies bliss!
and comfort food, for some, will taste like this.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Verses in the garden: an all-day poetry event

This Saturday, from 10 am to 3 pm, more than 75 poets will be reading poems about gardens, nature, the environment, life, death, and tomatoes, both others' work and their own. I am very pleased to have been part of organizing this event. I know most of you are far away, but if anyone is within driving distance, come for all or simply part of this lovely day. Plus, a huge sale on tomato plants!