25 March 2006

What Should a Review Accomplish?

I was dissatisfied by the recent review in NPDR by Gretchen Reydam-Schils, of Tad Brennan's book, The Stoic Life. It told me almost nothing about the book. I find myself thinking back to the review, trying to reconstruct what I know about the book as based on the review, and I come up with the following:

  • The book contains both introductory and non-introductory material.
  • The introductory passages contain simplifications.
  • It is written in the style of analytic philosophy.
  • Its bibliography largely consists of works written in English.
  • To analyze Stoic arguments, Brennan makes disputable decisions about how to interpret some of their claims.
  • At one point, Brennan appears to misconstrue Pierre Hadot.
  • A reader of this book should not rely upon it alone but should consult primary sources as well.
And somehow the review is written in a tone of disapproval throughout--as if we just know that the book isn't that good, for all of the reasons mentioned.

To me it seemed that the book irked Reydam-Schils for reasons that are ultimately subjective. She should have vented her irritation in a draft, thrown that away, and then written something that was serviceable to others.