Book review: The Art of Criticism

by Ahalya on May 26, 2010

“…the purpose of life is to live in the service of myself and that every action, thought or deed that I commit from this point forward shall never be wasted in this regard… I shall endure no suffering, insult, mental torture or physical harm and I shall always find a way to have someone else endure it for me… I am a critic, the best of the breed…So shall I live, so shall die and so shall be remembered until all time is gone by.”

ArtofcriticismEyebrows raised, I glanced at the title of the book and the author’s name again. The Art of Criticism: How to make people do what you want by Stanley Stephen. A bonsai on the cover. Hm.

I had done this glancing at the cover thing twice already. I had been skimming through the book, and at the very first words I read, I sat up, and blinked. A self-published author? And such fresh thoughts?

Let’s just say that self-publishing has its share of bad publicity. It’s the case of a few rotten apples at the top of the barrel. You read a few wannabe authors who unfortunately try to imitate a popular author and the lack of talent shows. And after that experience, you tend to glance away from all self-published books. It’s sad. Something should be done about it.

Like maybe reading The Art of Criticism and being willing to change your opinion about authors who prefer to not publish with the big names (who will ride their book to the bank).

This is a book about the art of criticism. The “subtler form of persuasion”. This is a great book for those who want an intelligent read about how the art of criticism has been fine-tuned through the centuries (there are refreshing perspectives here on certain religions and historical events). If you can adopt even a fraction of the advice the author gives you, I do not doubt for a minute that people won’t do your bidding. The advice on excelling in the art of criticism is common-sense, hardwearing stuff.

See, the book isn’t an easy read. I couldn’t read it in one sitting. It took me more than a week to read through only 89 pages. At times the words lead somewhere else than where you expected them to take you. At times my over-helpful, sensitive soul rebelled at the very ideas of manipulation and criticisms contained in the book. But, never let it be said that the content is uninteresting. It’s as if the author (or should I say ‘authors’ since Stephen says that the book was born in Mad Eddie’s head –a literary alter ego if there ever was one) was given one instruction only. Use your voice.

There is no real way of knowing what you can expect from the book before you start reading. Don’t expect long-winded explanations. Don’t expect a how-to-guide. There aren’t even too many examples to illustrate the important points. In fact, there isn’t even a very clear idea about who this book is for. Is it for only those who want to “get someone to do something for you, which he would never do under normal circumstances” or is it for those who have a more serious agenda, a stronger, deeper need to be on top of the game? I don’t know.

The author says he has deliberately refrained from spoon-feeding the reader, this is unfortunately something that I have a problem with. I must say that the language is extremely readable and free from all sorts of chaff. But still, I am personally not sure how many readers will get this book. I only got parts of it. To be honest, an extremely erudite, patient, and liberal reader is the probable target this book needs.

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Priyanka Borpujari May 27, 2010 at 7:20 pm

You think it would be worthy if this book fell into my hands and lap?


Aditi May 27, 2010 at 7:32 pm

where do i pick it up from?


admin May 28, 2010 at 6:35 pm

Hi Priyanka and Aditi,
Please visit the author’s site

You can buy the book via a link on that page 🙂


Meethil May 28, 2010 at 8:24 pm

Sounds like an interesting read.


Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: