Sunday, June 01, 2008


Smile When You Stab That

Noted in the Telegraph blog from Stephen Potter's droll 1950 classic Lifemanship, a footnote on the art of friendly bad reviews:

"Friendly attacks," he notes, "should begin with faint praise, but be careful not to use adjectives or phrases of which the publisher can make use in advertisements. Safe faint praise adjectives are catholic - i.e. too wide in treatment to be anything but superficial; well-produced - i.e. badly written. Alternatively - 'The illustrations, of course, are excellent.' Painstaking - i.e. dull. Useful words for friendly attacks are awareness, interesting, tasteful, observant."...

Other "effective methods of attack"[:]...

(i) To quote from a book no one else has read but you.

(ii) To imply that you are in some college or institution where the subject under review is daily discussed, so, of course, you know better but think this author quite good for one who has not had your opportunities of acquiring more knowledge.

(iii) To begin 'Serious students will be puzzled...'

(iv) To say 'In case there should be a Second Edition...' Then note as many trivial misprints as you can find.

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