Monday, May 30, 2005

Inevitable Venues For Satiric Genius

The Amazon Review is a marvel. Once completely uncensored, the easy reviewing function allowed authors to plug themselves, rivals to trash others anonymously, and of course for politicized books to get buffeted about like some CNN poll by waves of incoming blog-readers. Still, books trying to boost their tally of positive reviews or their "hip" factor might quote a "reader from Amazon" in the PR. I don't understand exactly why: t never worked on me, as a marketing technique, as I'd sooner trust one of those mindless plugs from the uniformly ghastly San Diego Union-Tribune.

Even before Amazon required reviewers to register with "real names," some reader/critics were starting to brand themselves. The Amazon "Top 20" or 50 or whatever reviewers are judged by other readers by their usefulness, and, generally, the system works: these commentaries are generally more informative, carefully written, and culturally sensitive than most of the crap that one sees on Amazon. The top reviewers tend carefully to the presentation of their online personae: most went by real names before they were required, and many posted general personal information about themselves.


It was only a question of time before someone hacked the system to create online performance art. Henry Raddick, who claims to be reviewing from the UK, has written scores of short, skewed reviews. For example, on Margo Woods's Masturbation Tantra and Self Love, he comments:
I bought this book to help my son Jonathan see a more zen side to masturbation. Or in fact any other side than the furtive and grubby.
And on Linda Egger's Spam: The Cookbook, we get:
This is a bold and imaginative cookery book. Eggers shows flair with a daring East/West fusion in her Thai influenced Spam with Mint and Brocoli: tender chunks of luncheon loaf stir-fried with fish sauce, chili, brown sugar and brocoli then topped with fresh mint. Look out too for her Spam en Croute - slab of reconstituted pork coated in a rich mushroom pate and wrapped in filo pastry. It's a triumph. That distinctive taste of the abbatoir floor you get with Spam comes through best, perhaps, in a simple yet delicious Spam Tartare - raw Spam, ground with anchovies, egg yolk, mustard, oil and Worcestershire Sauce. Mmmmmm. Heaven.
And on the almost implausible God's Diet: A Short and Simple Way to Eat Naturally, Lose Weight, and Live a Healthier Life by the totally implausible Dorothy Dr Gault-McNemee, Raddick raves:
This well-researched book argues for a regime of healthy eating using fresh produce. I have had serious weight issues myself and I have probably tried every diet there is going. The secret of healthy eating is feeling good about yourself and your body image. For a divine entity of incomprehensible dimensions, infinite mass is what God feels comfortable with, and this comforts me.
Most reviews get the full five stars (except, like, Shakespeare); the dagger-thrust is the voice of the person who loved the book.

Raddick has been at this since the fall of 2000, so he's developed quite a following. The most recent review seems to be 2003, so perhaps he's taken up blogging.

[HT: Vodkapundit]


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