But Beware of Pity I could not face. To do so, I felt, would be too dangerous–like rifling through someone’s letters after a death. I would discover things about him, about myself, about us, that I would not be able to withstand.
Too often I read reviews that are concerned with nothing but the book in question, and there’s a hermetically sealed quality to such reviews, a narrowness of scope. I’ve come to believe that good reviewing requires engaging with the world outside of the individual book. At the very least, the book should be placed in the context of other books, but ideally—and I recognize that this is an entirely subjective opinion—I prefer reviews that go beyond talking about literature, so that the book under review is considered in the context of the surrounding world.
Our own Emily St. John Mandel guest judged Electric Literature’s Critical Hit Awards this month. She discussed what she looks for in a book review in an interview with Brian Hurley. The winners are Andrew Winer’s review of The Kraus Project by Jonathan Franzen, Rachel Monroe’s review of The Contested Murder of Latasha Harlins by Brenda Stevenson, and our own review of Karen Green’s Bough Down by Suzanne Scanlon.
The perpetually excellent Helen DeWitt has a story featured in Electric Literature's Recommended Reading series.