Well, that was fun. Nearly a week with no Internet access for me and no new issue of BiblioBuffet last week for you. I’m also a day late here. I would apologize, but I really have nothing to apologize for. My service provider, on the other hand, could do with learning how to say “we screwed up, and we are sorry.” But I’m not holding my breath while I wait for them. So let’s go ahead and do what I had planned to do, and that is continue the series on how BiblioBuffet’s contributors do it.
Lev Raphael is a professional author; that is, he makes his living by writing. He is a consummate book reviewer, having reviewed books in columns like his one with BiblioBuffet—Book Brunch—as well as on a radio show on an NPR affiliate. Here is how he sees it.
Writing the column is like writing anything else for me no matter what the length: I need an entrance, I need to see my way into the piece whether it’s an opening line or two, a position to take, something to refute, whatever. Once I have that, I make notes, sometimes extensive, but mostly in the form of full sentences or even grafs. I couldn’t count how many drafts I do because I edit as I go or after I’ve put something down, and then read through easily half a dozen times at a minimum, editing as I go, sometimes more. That’s why I like to write ahead, be several months ahead if possible, then I can revisit the column, see it fresh. I know it can always be tweaked, smoothed out, reshaped—and of course seeing it on the website makes it much clearer and I occasionally find something there that requires fixing. I love to revise!
I always make pencil notes inside a book or galley, mark passages, circle page numbers, reference quotations on the inside cover or back, sometimes use Post-it notes. My books are filled with marginalia. I usually don’t forget something, even if I haven’t marked it, I tend to have a visual memory (“early in book, upper left hand page, mid-graf”).
So when you see Lev’s reviews you know he has read the book not simply as a reader but as a conscientious reviewer, as a set of eyes for you, our readers. He uses his intellect, his education, his knowledge, his passions to explore the work, and to explain why or why not it works all for the purpose of helping you to ferret out “writing worth reading.”
Next up: Lindsay Champion.