June 24, 2013

At last, book reviews for the irate and unloved among us


This is why we don’t include author photos in our review copies.

Have you ever read a book review and thought to yourself “this review is entirely too aware of the context surrounding this book”? Tired of having your book reviews cluttered up with unnecessary nonsense like the title of the book or the name of the author? Tired of reviews that don’t start from a place of willful ignorance? Well worry no more, you are not alone in your desire to do a grave disservice to books and the entire art of criticism itself.

Meet Double Blind Book Reviews. DBBR is the project of one Rick Carufel. It currently exists as an Indiegogo campaign, intended to help fund a book review site. A rather pricey book review site at that: Carufel is asking for donations of $20,000. He has, as of Sunday, received pledges for $105. I may be a pessimist, but it does not seem likely to me that he will end up hitting that final goal.

Carufel writes:

Sadly there is a free for all as far as indie book reviews are concerned. None are truly objective or impartial. Double Blind Book Reviews plans to fill this gap with the only reviews to use a double blind experimental model to insure impartiality. Furthermore we plan to have our email traffic audited to insure the scientific method is followed.

Taken at face value—that is, without the context of Carufel’s own name—this would seem little more than a strange latter-day recurrence of a soft and sticky sort of New Criticism, protected by a thin flaking scab of statistic jargon. It would make for unfortunate but harmless book reviews.

Carufel’s personal blog post about the idea, however, points us to something more toxic:

“These self proclaimed literati, although rank amateurs incapable of writing a review that is not a personal attack, have in their megalomaniacal delusions envisioned themselves to be authorities, experts and experienced reviewers. But the sad truth is they are none of those things, just opinionated sociopaths who have found a rock to hide under, book reviews.  In their little niche, sheltered and pampered by both goodreads and Amazon who seem to think they are a core group of reviewers.  They may well have been that at one point but have degenerated into the loathsome creatures they are now”

You may have seen the glow on the horizon by now and guessed at our destination. That’s right, we’re heading into Goodreads flamewar territory here.

Carufel, as it turns out, is a self-published author and indie publisher. Among his more charming works: a Kindle Single in response to Stephen King‘s gun control essay titled, obscurely enough, Stephen King Don’t Know Shit. Carufel does not strike me as someone I might like to spend time with. Nor do his books seem like something I might like to read. His arguments start as rants and descend from there. But I kind of feel for the guy. As a self-published author, he has effectively no opportunity to have his work reviewed by a professional. He is inordinately reliant on the ratings systems in place on Amazon or Goodreads. It’s hard to blame him for his apoplexy, then, when he himself seems to be the victim of attack on both of those sites.

It’s clear then that the Double Blind Book Review, even if it makes for bad criticism, would be for some authors, for this author, an improvement, even if it means the reviews themselves are hobbled. After all, who among us can say that we wouldn’t want our books of neo-Lovecraftiana to be judged on their own merits?



Dustin Kurtz is the marketing manager of Melville House, and a former bookseller.