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“The worst review is no review. Blackest marks go to Harper’s, New Leader, New Republic, Booklist, a few newspapers & most of the quarterlies (they were busy measuring Henry James’s fingernails).” The foregoing–to which I’ve added punctuation and capitalization to conform to conventions of English usage–comes from a little book called Fire the Bastards! First published in 1962, the book, assembled with scissors and glued together with sheer rage, was the work of one Jack Green. Green, publisher of the magazine newspaper from 1957 to 1965 and an enthusiast of William Gaddis’s first novel, The Recognitions, took it as his ambition in Fire the Bastards! to catalog the complete failure of the book reviewing establishment to adequately reckon with the appearance, in 1955, of Gaddis’s 956-page first novel.
Green collects, under headings like “with fear & favor,” “and now, its [sic] boner time!,” and “condescension,” examples from the 55 “imbecile critics” who wrote about The Recognitions upon its publication. His aim is to prove not the worth of the novel but the worthlessness of reviewers, their lack of qualifications, their abundance of “condescending & selfdamning words”.
Originally published serially in issues 12-14 of Green’s newspaper, Dalkey Archive Press published a nice hardbound edition in 1992. But due to the beauty of modernity you can read the electronic version for free. I propose it as your post-debate boilermaker of a weekend read.
More from Wyatt Mason:
Rolls of toilet paper Chicago’s city government has produced this year from recycled City Hall wastepaper:
Two thirds of U.S. teenagers experience uncontrollable rage.
Russia lost, then regained, contact with a satellite carrying five geckos sent to copulate in zero gravity.
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“I hope that after reading the following pages the leaders of the Y. M. C. A. will start a campaign to induce good young men to do nothing. If so, I shall not have lived in vain.”