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Louis Greenberg

@ Sunday Times Books LIVE

Star signs and book reviews and how they contort us

I’m a Scorpio, so ever since I was a few years old and could read the comics in the paper and their periphery, I’ve been conscientiously cultivating my determined, forceful, intuitive, magnetic, jealous, passionate, mysterious, quick-to-anger, slow-to-warm, occult-obsessed, creative and supersexy persona. I wasn’t sure if it was a fit, but that’s when I was born, so that’s who I was, surely? I would become.

In the same way, I’ve been reading book reviews all my life, so ever since I was a child I wanted to be a writer who could write an unputdownable, wickedly funny tour de force, a searingly honest and high-octane romp through the steamy underworld. My epic would be a deceptively simple emotional rollercoaster, sincere without being mawkish, touching without being sentimental. I wasn’t sure if that’s the sort of book I could write, but that’s what they like, isn’t it?

I’m a little older and wiser now, and my day job has allowed me to see through puffery and inflatery, and I realise that there might just be more than twelve types of humans – and two types of writers – in the world. That readers and writers should really try to decide for themselves what they like.

But still, other people’s good reviews echo as I sit down to write. I censor myself before I’ve even marked the page. I want my work to be good like those good books. I want my book to be unputdownable, wickedly funny, searingly honest. And heaven forfend it should be sentimental!

It was a shameful secret until now, but I actually enjoy entertainment which engages in some way with the emotions. There’s nothing like a song that makes the hair on my neck stand up, or a sweeping epic movie that makes me cry (always at the same scene where he staggers out of the cave with his lover’s body and gnashes, wetly, broken, at the desert sky), or characters in a book that I will miss when they’re gone. Oh, how I love being manipulated by those crafty, dastardly writers! Bathetic, maudlin, mushy, schmaltzy, slushy… without being sentimental, of course.

 

Recent comments:

  • <a href="http://karinamagdalenaszczurek.book.co.za" rel="nofollow">Karina</a>
    Karina
    July 11th, 2007 @15:33 #
     
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    Hi Louis, you really scared me there for a second – I quickly followed the link and am relieved to see that my reviewese is a bit more (or less?) inventive than the standard form. And thank you! I had no idea that I spoke an additional language :) I will work on my fluency. Reviewing is sometimes a pretty tough job…I once even couldn’t sleep for two days because of a review. Maybe I do take it a bit too seriously at times, but there is plenty of responsibility involved. I know how important a good/bad review can be. And in spite of all, I also know that writers actually do read them (even if they pretend not to). As a reader of reviews I also realise how many books I have actually bought, read and enjoyed just because of a review making me aware of their existence.
    So as a true Aquarius I will continue to take my job seriously, stay objective, avoid insanity at all costs (madness runs in the family) and try living up to the intellectual demands of my sign instead (some of us are supposed to be geniuses ;)).
    PS I really like reading your blog! Thank you.

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  • <a href="http://louisgreenberg.com" rel="nofollow">Louis Greenberg</a>
    Louis Greenberg
    July 12th, 2007 @09:59 #
     
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    Dear Karina, thanks for being such a thoughtful and diligent reviewer! I think in South Africa, because our media is rather far from saturated with book reviews, we have a high ratio of great reviewers who illuminate more than the marketers' blurbs, and who ask writers questions they never thought to ask themselves.

    Oh, I never read my reviews. I am impervious. And by the way, thanks for your kind comment in your PS. I have printed it out and added it to my scrapbook.

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  • <a href="http://karinamagdalenaszczurek.book.co.za" rel="nofollow">Karina</a>
    Karina
    July 12th, 2007 @13:27 #
     
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    Dear Louis, I presume that Ben whose "capricious eye habitually softens when it falls on ambitious writing" did not have this difficulty, but the word 'impervious' sent me to the dictionary – and to André who assures me that 'impervious' is a perfectly ordinary word, and that I simply did not know it because I am no ordinary person (by which he probably means my condition of not really having a mother tongue). So thank you, you have once again taught me something about language :) – danke or dankie or dziekuje or… – and for adding me, or rather some of my words, to your scrapbook – we feel honoured.

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