9780141002330 / 0141002336

Casanova Was a Book Lover: And Other Naked Truths Provocative Curiosities abt Writing Selling Reading Books


Publisher:Penguin Books



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About the book:

"To all reviewers," John Maxwell Hamilton dedicates Casanova Was a Book Lover. "Because only ungrateful asses would pan a book after having it dedicated to them." Hamilton needn't have taken the precaution. According to his editor, "Our modern reviewer is like a counselor at a self-esteem camp." If so, then gather round the fire, campers--it's time to enlarge Mr. Hamilton's ego. Hamilton's inquiry into the world of books and writing and publishing is sharp, fresh, and witty--erudite but devoid, thankfully, of academese. Each chapter addresses a single, often quirky aspect of the book world. One bemoans the idiocy of most acknowledgments pages, another the cheerleading and book-reportish quality of contemporary reviewing. The book's first chapter examines the writer's economic struggle, cheerily noting the convenience, in this regard, of his or her being in jail: "the big advantage ... is that a writer need not worry about making money or fret about having to take time out for cooking or doing the laundry." Later chapters include an etiquette guide for authors and readers ("reading your friend's book is a nice thing to do, but not required"--whew!), a survey of bad writing by presidents of the United States, and an exploration of the complicated decision-making that takes place at the inundated Library of Congress.

Among the most amusing bits here (though the primer to banal acknowledgments wins hands down) is Hamilton's list not of the bestselling books, which gather momentum just by being popular, but of the best-stolen books. These, he says, are the books people really want. Topping the list, as the Gideons are well aware, is the Bible, the stealing of which, Hamilton muses, "might seem to defeat the purpose of wanting it in the first place: salvation." Even the Waldorf Astoria stocks used books, "so wealthy guests can steal them." Of course, most struggling writers would love to write a book so desired it becomes theft-worthy. A book's success, though, says Hamilton, depends largely on "the talent that best serves a writer," luck. "Sometimes," he adds, "the worst luck, like dropping dead, can be the most fortuitous of all." --Jane Steinberg

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