A Review of this Review

You could feel, almost as soon as you’d read the title, that this was one of those ideas that was going to be a little too clever for it’s own good. One of those things that at first brush sounds rather clever, but fizzles after about eight sentences when it shallowness becomes clear.

Surely writing a review of the review that you’re writing is a clever conceit, there’s no denying that. But it has the very real pitfall of being a self-fulfilling prophecy. The review is inherently trapped by the basic idea and judgment that began it. If in the first paragraph the review was condemned as mediocre, the rest of the written piece must then be mediocre.

By the same token, if the initial judgment was that the idea was a work of genius, there would be an almost insurmountable level of expectation that would make it almost impossible to fulfill, and thus to write the rest of the review.

Most reviews are written after the work under review has been completed and polished. Not this one. This one is being reviewed as it’s simultaneously being written. Thus the quality of the review that it presently being written is based on the quality of the review that’s presently being written. It’s a sort of recursive review that feeds on itself indefinitely, unable to rise above it’s initial assessment of itself.

This review is further impeded by the fact that it cannot ever assess the work holistically, but must, in each paragraph, judge only those previously written. This obvious limitation could be taken as emblematic of the echo chamber that’s created by a small circles of elite intellectuals endlessly reviewing each others works. Feeding endlessly on the works of each other, the act of reviewing itself becomes recursive.

In this way, the review suggests a Dadaistic contempt for the very act itself. Unfortunately, the suggestion is neither borne out by thorough examination nor accepted public consensus. When an idea lacks either wide acceptance or textual support, it is incumbent upon the reviewer to provide at least a smidgen of evidence for their premises and thus their conclusion.

It somtimes feel unfairly dismissive to see something dismissed as “too clever by half,” but here the phrase is apt. Though it begins with an interesting idea, the review quickly fizzles for want of a more thoroughly thought-out execution. Though one can understand that the form itself would seem to limit this possibility, that seems a more cogent argument for abandoning the form than for excusing it’s myriad flaws. If it’s impossible to do it well, perhaps it shouldn’t be done at all.


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