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Wednesday’s Work-in-Progress: A New Review and a Lesson Re-Learned

BNScreenshotLast week brought the publication of my first piece for The Barnes & Noble Review: a review of Anthony Doerr’s oh-so-impressive new novel All the Light We Cannot See. I’m really proud of this review and happy to share it.

Something interesting happened with this assignment that I thought I’d mention here as a sort of how-to reminder.

If you’re a reviewer and/or familiar with the galley versions that are circulated to reviewers and other early readers ahead of publication, you may have noticed these cautionary words that often accompany them:

Before quoting for review, please consult the final edition or check with the publisher.

I honestly don’t know how closely other reviewers hew to this dictum, but I’ve always believed it to be important. It was essential in the case of this assignment, because one flaw in the book that I identified in the draft I submitted to my editors had been corrected in the final copy. As I hoped and suspected it would be.

That meant, though, that my original paragraph had to be excised. In case you’re curious, I’ll paste it here.

Doerr’s control of this novel for its more than 500 pages is so expert that one small mistake stands out. This error, which those who know Paris will perceive at once, occurs when Doerr situates the LeBlancs’ Paris apartment—definitively located in earlier pages within a Left Bank neighborhood six blocks from the natural history museum—across the Seine in Montmartre. (Alas, not once, but three times within two pages does the author place the LeBlancs’ home on the Rue des Patriarches in a quartier not its own.)

Good thing that I checked against the final copy, right? Although I’ll add that this isn’t always so easy to do. (I’ve found it to be significantly easier when reviewing for a high-profile venue whose editors are likely to receive final copies ahead of the actual publication date anyway. But I can think of many times in the past, when I’ve written reviews that haven’t been published until well after the book’s release date, when I’ve found myself checking my text against titles already on bookstore shelves.)

Any other reviewers have similar stories to recount?

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7 Responses »

  1. Loved the review (the book is now on the TBR list) and the advice on writing reviews. And you’re right to be proud of the review – it is beautifully written!

  2. Remember when you slightly misread the ending of The Believers because Zoë Heller changed it between proof and published copy?

    • David, dare I admit to you that I have yet to read that novel?

      • Well, now you have a sin to confess on Yom Kippur. If it wasn’t you, it was another good young critic. In her manuscript, Heller made a mistake about the Williamsburg Bridge, if I remember, but someone must have brought it to her attention, because she corrected it in the published copy. The good young critic never checked, and faulted Heller for her deficit sense of New York geography. Or something like that.

        • It wasn’t me! And sad to say, I’m woefully deficient when it comes to most geography myself (including NYC geography, notwithstanding circumstances of birth, early childhood, and current residence). For some reason, I really did absorb Paris, and I guess it somehow showed; while I was researching there, strangers often asked me for directions.

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