Friday, June 7, 2013

Margaret Atwood on Reviews and Footnotes

I stumbled across a collection of Margaret Atwood's essays at a used bookstore today and while perusing it two paragraphs leapt out to me:

Book reviews I think are the most difficult form for me. It's easy in them to be flip and dismissive, to make jokes at the book's expense, to sneer at the author; some papers think of this as being "controversial" or "readable." But if you're an author yourself you know how much time and effort has gone into a book, even a bad book, and you can't take it so lightly. A reviewer has a responsibility to the public, but she also has a responsibility to the book; you have to try and see and say what is actually there.

Longer critical essays are less painful. For one thing, you know they aren't going to damage sales and affect someone's livelihood, because they are usually post facto and printed in little magazines or academic journals. They also allow more room, for judicious reconsideration, for more complex evaluation than is usually possible in (for instance) The Globe and Mail, and for that luxuriant weed of academe, the footnote. If the book review leans a little towards Consumer Reports, the critical essay is perhaps more like talking to yourself. It's a way, too, of finding out what you really think.

Margaret Atwood, Second Words: Selected Critical Prose (Toronto: Anansi, 1982), 13.


  1. Hi Usman been reader of your blog am also interested in mughal history! Just wanted to know if an english translation of 'Dara Shikoh's Diwan' is available, if u have e-book could you share, thanks!

  2. Dear Syed Faizan,

    I am so glad to hear from you. To the best of my knowledge no translation of Dara Shikoh's Diwan exists, but there might be one of which I am not aware. If you are interested in his Majma‘ al-Bahrayn, or "The Mingling of the Two Oceans," it is available in pdf format here:
    It has the Persian original and the English translation,

    Thank you for visiting and commenting,