Thursday, November 18, 2004

Shameless boast: speed-reviewing

Speed-reading a book because of deadline constraints is one thing, speed-writing a review quite another. Have just written a 920-word book review in a little over an hour, and that too 1) completely unprepared, 2) on a production day, with lots of other work (official work -- what I’m actually paid to do) pending, and 3) this I’m not proud about - having properly read only half the book and sped-read the rest.

Full story: had just returned to office after meeting the visiting Australian authors Kate Grenville and Tim Winton for a magazine profile. (Had a great time talking with them - more on that later.) Was settling down to ‘official’ work when books editor came up all flustered, asking if I had a review to give her - sudden drying up of backlog etc. Now, I could easily have said no but reviewers’ greed (combined with professional pride - I have a reputation in office for being ‘fast’, almost certainly a reference to my reviewing speed) got the better of me; so after making a few quick mental calculations I croaked a tentative, fearful y-e-e-s-s and got to work.

The general air of desperation meant I had the freedom to stretch reviewing norms and write about Grenville’s 2001 novel The Idea of Perfection. I had started this book last week, in preparation for today’s interview, and gotten halfway through it before time started running out (I also had to rush through Winton’s Cloudstreet). So had to do the speed-read thing (very, very, very annoying and unsatisfying). Still, what made me confident that I’d be able to write a half-decent review was my conversation with the author earlier in the day - had discussed the book with her at length. So wrote an atypical piece, interspersed with bits on the author, filed it - and a mere couple of hours later, here I am basking and blogging while my (official work) editor hollers that the pages aren’t getting done.

Will put the review here sometime soon, and maybe something on the author interviews.

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