Review of a Review

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Kafka on the Shore, written by Haruki Murakami, was a success in Japan before it was even published thanks to the existence of preordering.  Its success quickly spread to other countries around the world once it was translated into English.  Janet Maslin, a journalist for the New York Times, published a review of Murakami's novel on January 31, 2005.  (NOTE: You may need to register to view the review.  Registration is free and you can do so here).

In her review, Maslin jumps right in and quotes a character's explanations for himself and his actions, without specifying which character she's speaking about and without citing the page from which she acquired the quote - I suppose she does this in order to prevent exposing spoilers.  She uses this quote as a means to introduce background information about the book.  The quote is rather strange and symbolic, like most of the novel, and by using it, Maslin is able to include other opinions on the book, such as the publisher's perspective.  

Throughout the review, Maslin continues to include strange, ambiguous quotes that make the reader wonder, "what is she talking about?"  However, that is beneficial for a review of Kafka on the Shore because the book itself makes the reader wonder the same.  Maslin even examines how the typeface adds to the confusing experience of reading Murakami's book.

A shift occurs in the sixth paragraph when Maslin begins to divulge more information in the form of plot summary.  She doesn't reveal too much, but just enough to hopefully pique the reader's interest.  She writes the rest of the review in this style.  

This review differs greatly from the other genres I've read.  It's unlike an essay, because it simply states occurrences from the novel without analyzing them or revealing too much of the importance of those occurrences to the overall meaning of the work, thereby preventing reader spoilage.  Also, the language is much more sophisticated than a book summary, or a Sparknotes page, because it is aimed at people who like to read and therefore have a more sophisticated vocabulary.  Maslin was obviously very familiar with the plot and Murakami's little intricacies, such as the symbols throughout the novel.  Of course, she didn't necessarily have to understand what those symbols meant, because this wasn't an analysis.  She did, however, let the reader know they're there so that he can be aware of them when he goes to read and analyze the book himself.

For more information on Haruki Murakami, check out his official website (Just FYI, music plays on the main page and I found it to be good music listen to while doing homework, such as while writing a book review).  If you wish to write book reviews yourself, look at this helpful tutorial from the Los Angeles Valley College.

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4 Comments

Jessica Orlowski said:

Thanks for the website- it's an... interesting song- sort of relaxing in a way. Also, thanks for the tutorial. I'm going to need that when I attempt to write my own book review.

Is this novel a fiction novel? You say that it prevents spoilers. That's good. My novel is a... biography of IBM during the Holocaust? It's sort of hard to explain. Maybe I can call it historical non-fiction. I was a little harsh in my review because the author of the review gave a lot away, but is "spoiling" okay when you're not talking about fiction and a plot?

Josie Rush said:

Jess- I guess if it's well-known, or the author presumes his/her readers will know a bit about the figure anyway (a lot of ppl read biographies about someone they're already interested in, and will know the bare essentials about anyway), it wouldn't be a problem. Like to say in a review that the author deals with death of JFK in a blase fashion, wouldn't be harmful, because most readers are going to know that JFK was assasinated.
But I also struggled with knowing what was OK and what wasn't in my review. What are we really trying to accomplish in a review, anyway?

Jessica Orlowski said:

Well, like Dr. Jerz said, we're trying to entice a book lover to read the book. See- my book is called "IBM and the Holocaust." This particular book details an unknown piece of history, so I wasn't sure if spoiling was okay. As a history buff, I believe that a historical chain of events is just as entertaining as a fictional story. So, spoiling is NOT okay in my eyes, especially if it's unknown history.

Josie Rush said:

Nah, if it's sort of obscure, I'd say spoiling is a definite don't. Even in historical fiction, there's a plot that unfolds, granted the author doesn't create this, but the chain of events is still there and important. However, if there's an event that happens at the begining of the book that you must include to tell the story (like, the whole book is set in motion when this person loses a presidential election, for example), I don't think it's wrong to "spoil".
Though, we're not really trying to entice someone to read the book. We're trying to help them decide whether or not they want to bother reading the book.

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Josie Rush on Review of a Review: Nah, if it's sort of obscure,
Jessica Orlowski on Review of a Review: Well, like Dr. Jerz said, we'r
Josie Rush on Review of a Review: Jess- I guess if it's well-kno
Jessica Orlowski on Review of a Review: Thanks for the website- it's a