Blurb this! McClelland & Stewart edition

March 9, 2015 by · 5 Comments 

Persona_Non_Grata_Tom_Flanagan“Flanagan raises some provocative questions about the limits of free speech to engage in theoretical speculation that tests the boundaries of conventional wisdom or morality. There is also a persuasive argument to be made against the judgmental impulse of an Internet lynch mob capable of destroying lives without recourse to due process or considered thought. Unfortunately, these salient points are drowned in a sea of self-serving, pugilistic rhetoric.”

Steven W. Beattie on Tom Flanagan’s Persona Non Grata, Quill & Quire, April 2014

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“‘Flanagan raises provocative questions about the limits of free speech to engage in theoretical speculation that tests the boundaries of conventional wisdom or morality. A persuasive argument against the judgmental impulse of an Internet lynch mob capable of destroying lives without recourse to due process of considered thought.’ Quill & Quire

– Paperback edition of Tom Flanagan’s Persona Non Grata, March 2015

This one is particularly egregious, for a number of reasons. First, there is the blatant manipulation of the second sentence to make it sound as though the quote says precisely the opposite of what it does say in context. Second, this blurb appears on a page with the header, “Praise for Persona Non Grata: The Death of Free Speech in the Internet Age.”

But perhaps most galling is the blinding irony in appending a bastardized quote to a book focused in large part on the dangers of taking someone’s words out of context.

Blurb this! House of Anansi edition

July 9, 2012 by · 3 Comments 

It’s not satire, per se, that is a problem for audiences, but a particular kind of satire: the kind that stings and bites and very frequently withholds happy endings. The kind Jonathan Swift, one of the form’s most impressive practitioners, famously characterized as “a sort of glass, wherein beholders do generally discover everybody’s face but their own.”

Riche’s satire, by contrast, is amiable and often overly broad. The California religious cult with members who walk around in shoes made out of loaves of bread are unlikely to inspire a frisson on the part of readers, nor is the ex-talk show host now living as a derelict in the ravine that runs beneath the tony Toronto neighbourhood of Rosedale. Elliot meets this latter character after tumbling down a hill into the ravine while in the process of stealing a coveted bottle of wine from his new boss’s cellar, a scene that has more in common with slapstick than satire.

This is particularly ironic in a book that spends so much time bemoaning our culture’s inability to appreciate art that is nuanced or uncomfortable. On numerous occasions, Elliot lectures his interlocutors on the subtleties of complex wines and the deeper pleasures these can yield over lesser vintages. A wine that is easy to like, for Elliot, is not as ultimately satisfying as a wine that divulges its riches only gradually, requiring patience, dedication and a sophisticated palate to fully appreciate. Finally, that is perhaps the central problem with Riche’s novel: It’s easy to like.

– Steven W. Beattie, National Post, September 9, 2011

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“It’s easy to like.” – National Post

– Paperback reprint of Easy to Like, July 2012