Editor's Choice

Editor's Choice

September 15, 2002|By Michael Pakenham

Bad Press: The Worst Critical Reviews Ever, edited by Laura Ward (Barrons, 256 pages, $14.95).

One of the great natural unfairnesses of life is that unkind reviews of books, plays, music -- whatever -- and especially vicious ones live on in memory and anthologies while favorable ones die young. Here, Ms. Wood, an irrepressible enthusiast for aesthetic savagery, has compiled a magnificent compendium of dismissals. Among my favorites: "The triumph of sugar over diabetes" -- George Jean Nathan on the writing of J.M. Barrie. "I love Wagner; but the music I prefer is that of a cat hung up by its tail outside a window and trying to stick to the panes of glass with its claws" -- Charles Baudelaire. And "Farley Granger played Mr. Darcy with all the flexibility of a telegraph pole." -- Brooks Atkinson on a musical version of Pride and Prejudice. But these are just snippets. Some of the most entertaining and even intellectually provocative material here comes in pieces far to long to quote here. A delightful romp of critical wickedness.

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