We have long wanted to publish book reviews, and suddenly find ourselves with a starter set of more than 20, thanks to Kerry Brown of King’s College London, editor in chief of the Berkshire Dictionary of Chinese Biography. This is not because we used our detailed plan for getting review copies, soliciting reviews, and sending guidelines and chasing up the reviewers. That’s the old-fashioned way. Instead, we used Facebook, or rather Kerry used Facebook and we noticed.
Kerry reads more than anyone I have ever known except perhaps Marvin Mudrick, who was after all a literary critic and English professor, so reading was his job. I know about Kerry’s reading because he is also unable, it seems, to read a book and not write something about it. I would go to Facebook and there would be yet another off-the-cuff but really intelligent and informative review by Kerry.
The first that caught my eye began, “Filling the hours of torpor and inertia brought on by a mild but debilitating cold by reading the final volume of Samuel Beckett’s Letters 1966-1989 (Cambridge University Press 2016) was perhaps not the most straightforward way to maintain good spirits. But in the end, this monumental, scrupulously edited final volume (three have appeared before) worked well.” I don’t know about you, but much as I like letters they are not my chosen reading when I am sick. I was fascinated by the review, and wildly impressed. Read the review by clicking here.
I began to watch Kerry’s Facebook feed. His book reviews came out often, and he was reading all over the place. But Facebook is a lousy place to put content. After I read the review of the Story of the Stone, or Dream of the Red Chamber by Cao Xueqin, translated by David Hawkes and John Minford, I emailed Kerry and asked if I could copy his reviews and publish them on our blog. By this time, I knew how valuable they were, because I had been planning to tackle the Story of the Stone and reading Kerry’s review made me realize that I couldn’t do it, and that I would be content to rely on his explanation: “The best that a total novice like me can hope for is to simply acknowledge how helpful reading this work has been in digging into the issue of that vexed question of what a Chinese world view might be, and what its archaeology is. The most moving parts of the whole vast edifice, for me, were those dealing with the irrevocable movements of fate, of the moral challenges of individuals facing this and yet still needing to make decisions that matter and give meaning to their lives, and of the supreme importance of human relations within Chinese culture.” Read the review by clicking here.