My dear Readers Who Write,
You will know of me as the renowned author Moonbeam Farquhar Metheringham IV and have no doubt heard of the wisdom and erudition I have been putting forth in this highly enlightening series ‘The Thinking Quill’.
It is one’s intention today to depart from the pathways of rectitude and face squarely the chimera that is the erudite composition of a review.
“Now what,” I hear you ask, “has led our Ivy into these shark-filled shoals?” The answer, mes petits, is a review one recently received for that epitome of literary elegance that is the science-fiction classic ‘Fatswhistle and Buchtooth’. Some ignorant pensioner posted her abusive opinion and graded my magnum opus with a solitary gold-star. Her supposed ‘review’ was a single sentence in length: “This is the worst pile of crap masquerading as sci-fi I have read in over forty years.” One realised instantly the poor deluded female must be both menopausal, thus in her dotage, and also clearly the victim of dementia, so generously forgave her on the moment.
But it awoke me to the imperative of inducting the future generations of Readers Who Write into the subtle nemeton of the reviewers craft. No student of Moonbeam Farquhar Metheringham IV should be reduced to the single sentence, no matter how pithy when they are casting supreme judgement upon the literary ejaculations of fellow authors. So, it falls upon me to ensure you are equipped with the knowledge and skill to dissect the entrails of another’s corpus.
Now, there will be those misguided souls among you who have, until now, seen it as their deity-sent duty to encourage the writer and coddle his artistic soul with warming and conspicuously kindly rumination on the opus before them.
I rail against such foolishness. Nay, I cry. Nay, nay and thrice nay. The very existence of the reviewer demands a harsher task. Armour yourself with erudition, take up the sword of experience and the bows and arrows of superior lexicography, and sally forth to slay the mythical monsters of pusillanimous prose, insufficiently exquisite world building, flat ‘realistic’ characterisation, and unimaginative, ‘logical’ plot lines.
Take up your weapons and do battle.
Let your words and wit be as a scalpel with which you excise the necrotising flesh of mediocrity from the bones of boredom, the tendons of tedium, and the entrails of excruciating entropy.
Should any work not meet the most stringent demands of taste, texture and testicular terpsichory, one must be not afraid to consign the script to the dungeons known as ‘did not finish’ and to expostulate one’s redaction as coolly as a surgeon whose sharpened scalpel removes disease to save life.
Take as your talisman the words of that divine dame whose perfect pinkness and portentous prose shows all lesser mortals the direction in which the glorious Muse may be cajoled by an author of superlative talent and all superseding sensibility. Consider the exquisite gentility of her delicately virginal heroines and the craggy, all-embracing masculinity of her manly heroes. It matters not what the genre, take the advice of one upon whose knowledge you may safely depend and use the words of the divine dame as the yardstick by which you judge all literary pretensions.
Once you find a manuscript worthy of your attention, husband your gilded heavenly bodies with care, awarding each and every one as parsimoniously as if it were a child of your own bosom. Let not the spirit of generosity move you to sprinkle planetoids with a lavishness beyond the desserts of that which stands before you.
I present to you my own formula for asteroid assignation.
One heavenly body: some slight little thing. An example being Dying to be Roman, by those dreadful women who I allow to benefit from my enormous popularity
Two sleeping satellites: a book with sufficient eclat to hold one’s grudging respect. An example being JRR Tolkien’s fantastical travelogue.
Three asteroidal amplifications: a volume where one is sufficiently engaged to need to peek at the ending to ensure one’s favourite characters survive. An example being ‘Game of Thrones’ – who’s bid for more shining lights was only scuppered by a little over fondness for violence within its pages.
Four twinklies: a work of superlative excellence. An example being the understated, linguistically purist, Gorean Saga
Five golden galleons: reserved for the work of the divine dame whose bejeweled pink slippers I am unworthy to kiss.
In conclusion, dear RWW, let your metaphysical pen be as feared in reviewing as it will become beloved in creation.
You can find more of IVy's profound advice in How To Start Writing A Book, the worst ever 'how to write' book. Read IVy's advice with editorial comments on each blog piece by his mother, Jacintha. All courtesy of E.M. Swift-Hook and Jane Jago.