I found following along with Des Lewis’s real-time review of The Weird, in which he would read each story and then blog about it, before moving on, to be a fascinating experience. It’s not often that an editor (in this case, co-editor with my wife Ann) is privileged enough to get such a detailed, sympathetic, and informed read. It’s also an idiosyncratic read in some ways—a determined effort to find an underlying theme or meaning or commonality by a writer and editor whose literary interests are diverse and wide. If it skews, it skews eccentric yet universal. (In fact, eccentric because universal, given that people’s reading tastes often render something eccentric because their reading tastes are not universal.)
I was moved to want to write a post after Des finished for a variety of reasons.
First, that it was a heroic effort—to commit to reading so much and blogging about it, and that this deserved a tip of the hat. But more than that, to note that although The Weird has already had several reviews, only Des’s review contains the totality of the anthology and only a story-by-story encounter with the anthology really gets at whether or not it is of use, whether it has cohesion, etc. In doing this, Des was also sympathetic to the purpose of stories, was open to what they were trying to do, and displayed great sensitivity to the individual paragraphs and sentences in each story. (Which is not to say such sympathy meant he wasn’t willing to reject what he didn’t wind up liking.) This is rare, to be honest, in reviews, and although literary criticism does provide more of this kind of in-depth analysis, it’s in a different context. So I would argue that we need more *reviews* that are both in-depth and sympathetic. That display evidence that the reviewer has allowed the text to be not just at the center of their attention, but to have all of their attention. Which also leads to the observation that not every book deserves this kind of attention. (And, that anthology reviews in general, due to limited word count for many review venues, tend to be lacking and it is much more possible to skim an anthology and do a serviceable if surface review than to do the same with a novel.)