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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:
Conversation — October 2, 2015, 8:26 am
“By committing to the great emotional extremes demanded by Greek tragedy,” says Bryan Doerries, author of The Theater of War, “the actors are in effect saying to the audience: ‘If you want to match our emotional intensity, that would be fine.’”
Chances that an American knows the position of his or her senators on health-care reform:
Climate experts proposed creating a fleet of cloud-seeding yachts that will pump water vapor into the atmosphere to thicken global cloud cover, thereby reflecting more sunlight, in order to counteract the effects of global warming.
In San Antonio, a 150-pound pet tortoise knocked over a lamp, igniting a mattress fire that spread to a neighbor’s home.
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"It is an interesting and somewhat macabre parlor game to play at a large gathering of one’s acquaintances: to speculate who in a showdown would go Nazi. By now, I think I know. I have gone through the experience many times—in Germany, in Austria, and in France. I have come to know the types: the born Nazis, the Nazis whom democracy itself has created, the certain-to-be fellow-travelers. And I also know those who never, under any conceivable circumstances, would become Nazis."