Even though the number of comments disagreeing with my post about reviewers passing judgement on the reader’s capacity (“Insult to Human Intelligence”) was, by far, in the minority, a couple of people did request to see the offending review in its entirety. So, in the interest of transparency, here it is:
Now, initially, I had chosen not to post the review because the rest of it was blandly matter-of-fact, and did not seem to relate to the terminating sentence. Looking at it again, I now see that the penultimate sentence, which loosely attempts to establish the grounds for the insulting judgement, is equally misguided and misguiding, and clearly indicates how inaccurate the reviewer was in their assessment of Darwin in Scotland.
There is a comprehensive account of the time Charles Darwin spent at Edinburgh, in the surrounds and elsewhere in Scotland. This starts in Chapter 1 and continues for most of the book, drawing on that time and the influences met there throughout. I cannot understand how that could have been missed, other than by not reading any of it.
And, yes, there are technical passages, and yes, experts in scientific fields are consulted. But, so are individuals from outside biological academia: from medicine, christianity, teaching, philosophy, art, linguists and astronomy.
In fact, here is the complete list of contributors, plus their biographical information:
As well as this broad sweep of professions, in order to facilitate the reader’s progress and understanding, comprehensive material is provided via a glossary, notes and an appendix. Therefore, all that is required to read Darwin in Scotland is willing, from the reader, to engage with the content, and that much is all we can expect from anyone.
Unfortunately, some people, such as the writer of the review above (I think, a senior, female literary editor and fellow author), have a rather narrow concept of literature, a lack of appreciation of diversity, and little confidence or respect for the “general” public, who the hell that may be!
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That review is just plain rude! It looks like it had to fit in that small amount of text shape though? It may have just got edited down to a super quick summary by someone who hasn’t read the book.
Though I haven’t read it yet either, couldn’t find it on my travels to find Hawking’s new book. Neither Waterstones or hodges and figgs had it.
JFD – the above 100 or so words isn’t a review of your book. The writer offers sweeping generalisations, doesn’t acknowledge the breadth of contributors nor the spread of views and topics that, cumulatively, they bring to a very interesting subject. I’d have thought that the foreward by A.C. Grayling would convince that it was a book for everyone.
I recently finished reading Susan Hill’s lovely book – Howard’s End is on the Landing, and point you to where she helpfully quotes from David Cecil:
…. ‘[the literary critic’s] aim should be to interpret the work they are writing about and to help readers to appreciate it, by defining and analysing those qualities that make it precious and by indicating the angle of vision from which its beauties are visible.
But many critics do not realise their function. They aim not to appreciate but to judge; they seek first to draw up laws about literature and then to bully readers into accepting these laws … [but] you cannot force a taste on someone else, you cannot argue people out of enjoyment.’ [from p. 156]
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