Walker Percy on Book Reviews


I came across this quote in a book titled Signposts in a Strange Land which is a collection of various writings by novelist Walker Percy. In the current climate, I thought it might prove instructive. It’s from piece he called Self Interview: Questions They Never Asked Me. (Both the question and the answer are Percy’s.)

What do you think of [book] reviews?

Very little. Reading reviews of your own book is a peculiar experience. It is a dubious enterprise, a no-win game. If the review is flattering, one tends to feel vain and uneasy. If it is bad, one tends to feel exposed, found out. Neither feeling does you any good. Besides that, most reviews are of not much account. How could it be otherwise? I feel sorry for reviewers. I feel sorry for myself when I write a review. Book reviewing is a difficult and unrewarding literary form and right now no one is doing it. The reviewer’s task is almost impossible. A Writer may spend years doing his obscure thing, his little involuted sexual-theological number, and there’s the poor reviewer with two or three days to figure out what he’s up to. And even if the review is good, you’re in no mood to learn anything from it. The timing is all bad. You’re sick to death of the book and don’t want to even think about it. Then, just when you think you’re rid of the baby, have kicked him and his droppings out of the nest forever, along come these folks who want to talk about him.”—Walker Percy, Questions They Never Asked Me, 410 in Signposts in a Strange Land

Have a nice weekend! And to all you whose lives are dedicated to review and criticism, well…

Soli Deo Gloria!



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