Birth of an Online Reviewer


Last night’s work read was a novel whose tone profoundly disturbed me. But that’s all I can say because I don’t blog in detail about the books I read for work. Instead, you get a post On Reading.

I recently posted a few of my blog reviews up on Amazon, just to see what would happen, and in doing so remembered that I posted a review on Amazon a very loooooooong time ago–my only one until recently. I wasn’t sure if it’d still be there, or if I’d even recognize which one I wrote, but lo and behold:

The Last Gentleman
What it means to pass from death to life
August 19, 1997
Reviewer: A reader
Marooned in New York City, displaced Southerner Will Barrett finds himself utterly abstracted from his world and himself. When a chance encounter in Central Park leads him to make the acquaintance of the Vaughts, fellow Southerners who knew his father, Will embarks on a journey that he hopes will tell him what he desperately needs to know. What does he need to know? If Will knew the answer to that, he wouldn’t need the Vaughts, or the South, or the haunted memory of his father. Traversing the country, Will seeks the one man he believes will tell him what to do. Percy not only weaves a lush character study of lost Will, but realizes a profound meditation on the nature of identity, place, and home. Above all, like any good picaresque novel, Will’s journey is not so much about the end, but about what he discovers along the way. However, as a testament to Percy’s imagination and probity, Will’s final destination provides nothing less than utter revelation. I closed this book and jumped out of bed immediately, my breath coming in gulps as I absorbed and processed what Walker Percy had taught me with such love, patience, beauty and truth.

I think for awhile it had my name on it, but I guess in some email switch my old identity was lost forever. Back in August of 1997 I was working for a film producer who taught me how to analyze screenplays and write coverage. I’d been obsessed with Amazon since earlier that year, because I remember killing time at my post-grad school internship by looking up books on the site in the winter of 1997.

The internet has changed, and so have I, but my opinion of The Last Gentleman by the great Walker Percy stands secure.


2 Responses to “Birth of an Online Reviewer”

  1. That same year I was teaching history for the first time and decided to do something new. I had my students post Amazon reviews to one of the books I forced them to read for class, and rate the book as well. Their reviews were horrid, partially due to my lack of clarity about my expectations. I did try to get them to think for themselves, but they gave me back what they thought was my opinion of the book (about which they were sorely mistaken).

    A couple of weeks go by and the Department Chair asks me into his office. This guy at another University looked at the reviews and concluded that I was indoctrinating these students as communists or something. Worse than that, however, was that he believed I had made the book less popular because of the way my students rated it.

    Don’t know why I’m telling you this. But I have noticed that I don’t go to Amazon for reviews anymore. The site seems to have been overwhelmed by industry flacks and advertisers.

  2. Great story!! I read somewhere that you can’t really go by consumer reviews to judge quality, because it’s only the people who have strong opinions who actually bother to post reviews. So you get love it or hate it, and no real nuance.

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