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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:
Discussed in this essay:
The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History, by Elizabeth Kolbert. Henry Holt. 352 pages. $28.
The extinction symbol is a spare graphic that began to appear on London walls and sidewalks a couple of years ago. It has since become popular enough as an emblem of protest that people display it at environmental rallies. Others tattoo it on their arms. The symbol consists of two triangles inscribed within a circle, like so:
“The triangles represent an hourglass; the circle represents Earth; the symbol as a whole represents, according to a popular Twitter feed devoted to its dissemination (@extinctsymbol, 19.2K followers), “the rapidly accelerating collapse of global biodiversity” — what scientists refer to alternately as the Holocene extinction, the Anthropocene extinction, and (with somewhat more circumspection) the sixth mass extinction.
Ratio of husbands who say they fell in love with their spouse at first sight to wives who say this:
Mathematicians announced the discovery of the perfect method of cutting a cake.
Indian prime-ministerial contender Narendra Modi, who advertises his bachelorhood as a mark of his incorruptibility, confessed to having a wife.
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Science’s crisis of faith