steepholm (steepholm) wrote,
steepholm
steepholm

Slashers and Sours

Thought for the day:

I think we must get it firmly fixed in our minds that the very occasions on which we should most like to write a slashing review are precisely those on which we had much better hold our tongues. The very desire is a danger signal. When an author whom we admire in general, writing in a genre we thoroughly enjoy, produces a disappointing work, we may proceed with tolerable safety. We know what we had hoped for. We see, and would have relished, what he was trying to do. By that light we may possibly diagnose where the book has gone wrong. But when an author we never could stand is attempting (unsuccessfully--or, worse still, successfully) 'exactly the sort of thing we always loathe', then, if we are wise, we shall be silent. The strength of our dislike is itself a probable symptom that all is not well within; that some raw place in our psychology has been touched, or else that some personal or partisan motive is secretly at work. If we were simply exercising judgement we should be calmer; less anxious to speak. And if we do speak, we shall almost certainly make fools of ourselves.
    Continence in this matter is no doubt painful. But, after all, you can always write your slashing review now and drop it into the wastepaper basket a day or so later. A few re-readings in cold blood will often make this quite easy. (CSL, Studies in Words 232)

True in general, I think, but a really good bad review can give great pleasure - so long as the reviewer realises that they are sortieing into the battlefield rather than shooting from the safety of the ramparts. The very sense that they're taking a risk is part of the thrill.

On other matters - why is there no tradition of sour candy in the UK? I'm just back from visiting my brother in Brighton, who revealed a long-standing interest dating from his years in the States and fostered by his friend David Rakowski, who sends him packages of the stuff. Thus was I introduced to Cry Baby Tears, a big hit with me and the children; but Martin said that his particular favourites were the even sourer Altoids, which I'd certainly never heard of.

Despite the Doctor Who-ish name, Altoids turn out to be pretty venerable - first manufactured in the 1780s. More surprisingly, they are as British as curry. They're still made in Wales, before being transported across the Atlantic to the US market, where they seem to be something of an American institution (but tell me if I'm wrong). All this may change, however, as the owners are reported to be switching production from Bridgend to Chattanooga, bringing 220 years of tradition to an end. Okay, I'd never come across Altoids until two days ago, but still - was that a twinge of hiraeth? Or just one too many Cry Baby Tears?
 
 
Tags: books, real life
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