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Beating the nice nice nice thing to death (with fluffy pillows)

The Emperor’s New Clothes?

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John Clute’s Excessive Candour review column recently transfered from SF Weekly to Sci-Fi Wire when the former merged with the latter. This caused some degree of confusion for the punters of Sci-Fi Wire and eventually lead to Clute being dumped before immediately being snapped up by Strange Horizons.

Back in September, Jeff Vandermeer helpfully gave Sci-Fi Wire’s readers a translation of his review of The Wind-Up Girl by Paolo Bacigalupi. Vandermeer concluded:

In an age when we have not too much sophisticated analysis of books but too little, it is hard to fault a reviewer for expanding our vocabulary even as he explicates a text. The fact is, the ways in which his words seem to stand out like a flashing siren or fit in as if part of an intricate mosaic will always depend on the brains of each individual reader.

There is some further discussion of this over at Torque Control. This has got me thinking: how do I feel about Clute? I have always counted him a good thing but only in an unreflexive and passive way. I may read his reviews but I don’t seek them out and I prefer many other reviewers. I despise the willful ignorance of the people on Sci-Fi Wire who dismiss him out of hand but at times his stylistic excesses irritate me and appear more like obfuscation than illumination. I have failed to truly engage with anything he has written. So I have resolved to think more closely about him, his use of language and his critical framework. I’m not sure what form this will take (or why you would be interested) but it may well involve a more serious take on Vandermeer’s translation idea once Clute is ensconced at Strange Horizons.

Written by Martin

28 November 2009 at 17:33

Posted in criticism, sf

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