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New Year's Resolution: Book Reviews!

OK, so it isn't New Year and I don't really do New Year's Resolutions, but here's one anyway. In the past, I occasionally wrote short punchy book reviews and posted them on LJ. I'm going to try to do that again. I've written out a list of all the books that I've read since I last did this and the book will be selected at random. I should also point out that I feel strongly that the point of a book review is to say if you liked the damn book, along with enough detail about it that anyone reading the review will get a good idea of whether or not they will like it. So that's what you're going to get in these short reviews, not pseudish cockwaffle.

Here's the first:

Attila the Hun: Barbarian Terror and the Fall of the Roman Empire, Christopher Kelly

Decent history of not just Attila, not just the Huns but their role in the eventual downfall of the Western Roman Empire and their interactions with other barbarian nations of the time. Very readable. If you're looking for a detailed account of Hunnic military tactics, then this book probably isn't it. But it's better than most 'barbarians versus civilisation' history books not only at seeing both points of view, but also at differentiating different kinds of barbarians (the Huns from the Alans for example). Recommended.


( 13 comments — Leave a comment )
Mar. 18th, 2016 08:00 am (UTC)
Hah, New Year.

I keep meaning to post book reviews too. I find I remember them better if I've written something about them.

I should read this, it would make an interesting contrast to the Bryan Ward-Perkins one.
Mar. 20th, 2016 03:52 pm (UTC)
I keep meaning to do this, too. Maybe once I get (a) some spare time and (b) some organisation. Hah.
Mar. 18th, 2016 08:29 am (UTC)
So far this year, I've managed to write reviews of everything I've read, and I'm really enjoying doing it. It's inspiring me to read more, and the process of trying to articulate just what I like/don't like, and why, is really adding to my enjoyment of my reading. Even when I don't much like a book, I'm still getting pleasure from trying to work out just WHY it's not working for me. Doubtless the resulting (often long) reviews are full of "pseudish cockwaffle", but they're what I want to write. :-)
Mar. 18th, 2016 10:42 am (UTC)
I don't really know what he means by "pseudish cockwaffle" but I am determined that next time I write a book review, I shall include LOOOOAADS of it.

Hey, I googled it, and he's a googlewhack for it! Clearly not as common as he thinks... :-D
Mar. 18th, 2016 11:33 am (UTC)
Yes, I noticed last night when I was writing this post that Google had no results for pseudish cockwaffle.

Clearly I need to define it. OK, pseudish cockwaffle is contained in those reviews that, instead of telling the reader how good or bad the book is and whether or not they would like it, instead draws upon literary theory and criticism to draw pointless parallels, to over-analyse and (frequently) to miss the point entirely.*

It's "pseudish" from "pseud", meaning "a pretentious person that pretends to know a lot about the Arts when he in fact knows very little or nothing".

It's "waffle" because waffle means "to talk unendingly, with no point to your conversation about totally idiotic things".

And it's "cock" because often the subtext of the review by a male reviewer (they're usually, but not always male, at least in a loose sense of the word) is "My penis is this large. No really, it is."

* Two examples: Ray Bradbury once gave a lecture at a university about Fahrenheit 451 and walked out when the class insisted that the book was about censorship and wouldn't accept what he said his own book was about.

And James Joyce's grandson, attending a scholarly conference about his grandfather's work said that his grandfather would have "died laughing" at all the things being said.

Edited at 2016-03-18 12:36 pm (UTC)
Mar. 18th, 2016 12:57 pm (UTC)
These comments have now guaranteed that if you ever have any competition for the search term 'pseudish cockwaffle' you will remain king of the google results for the foreseeable future.

A lonely, somewhat pointless realm, but you shall be monarch of it all the same.
Mar. 18th, 2016 01:53 pm (UTC)
Ah so, "pseudish cockwaffle" is what Adam Roberts referred to as literary critics "wanking on for thousands of words"?

Apart from the whole pseud thing, my problem with many lit crit review is that they are chock* full of spoilers.

*Or should that be cock full?
Mar. 18th, 2016 02:32 pm (UTC)
Yeah, pretty much. As it happens, there's an Adam Roberts book (Yellow Blue Tibia) on my list of books to write reviews for. I like that book, but when he writes as a critic, he does stray into pseudish cockwaffle territory I'm afraid.

"...an SF narrative so hard you'd need a sclerometer to measure it, but written with a sinuous, fin-de-siècle intensity".

I completely agree with you on the subject of spoilers. In fact, I try not to read any commercially published reviews until I've finished a book. That's partly to avoid spoilers and partly because I'd like to make up my own mind on whether it's any good or not. Obviously that's not always possible if you're reading books because they won an award or because they are an accepted classic. I promise that any review I write will be spoiler-free as far as possible, and if it isn't then I'll flag the spoilers above the cut.
Mar. 18th, 2016 12:23 pm (UTC)
I keep meaning to change my band name in Rock Band to Glum Weasel, because I think it has a pleasing sound. I am now tempted to change it to Pseudish Cockwaffle instead. :-D
Mar. 18th, 2016 12:37 pm (UTC)
Glum Weasel is a good band name. I'd stick with it, but use Pseudish Cockwaffle as the title of their next album.
Mar. 18th, 2016 12:55 pm (UTC)
I myself am planning to institute a 'Pseudish Cockwaffle' tag, for identifying suitable book reviews.
Mar. 26th, 2016 08:33 pm (UTC)
Good tag! (Though not the best tag using "cock" I've read today.)
Mar. 27th, 2016 12:14 am (UTC)
Please explain!
( 13 comments — Leave a comment )