reviews of Philip Roth; NFL draft + recession (Matthew Stafford + Mark
Sanchez are not first-round worthy; Chase Coffman + Zac Robinson are)
Bind me to this pledge, if I ever get a job reviewing books:
“I, the critic, do solemnly swear to report in the first
paragraph whether the book is worth your time and money.”
It seems simple, right? But too many reviewers fail to
deliver what ought to be their primary deliverable.
Specifically, I’m pissed about James
Wolcott’s review of Philip Roth’s Indignation,
which appeared in The New Republic (TNR) in October. Wolcott’s
piece, at some length, summarized the plot and provided sociocultural context
for the themes. Unfortunately, Wolcott didn’t announce his verdict – is Indignation worth my time and money? –
until the twenty-third paragraph.
made the same mistake in his review
of Indignation in The New York Review of Books (NYRB). He
opened with a high-flown epigraph from Chekhov and followed with two paragraphs
including another Chekhov quote. Batting third was a paragraph about Roth’s
oeuvre. Finally, in paragraph four, Simic came around to Indignation.
The rest of Simic’s article was plot summary, though
“summary” is putting it kindly, since Simic’s recap of a 236-page novel lasted
from paragraph four to paragraph twenty-three. Only in his final paragraph (the
twenty-sixth) did Simic proclaim Roth “a master” who writes “credibly about the
time we live in.” Thanks, Chuck – so I guess Indignation is worth my time and money?
My suggestion to TNR
and the NYRB: Preface your reviews with a gimmick that’s
worked marvelously for Rolling
Stone and Entertainment Weekly.
It’s a little thing called grading. You know: Four or five stars, thumbs up or
thumbs down, A, B, C, D, or F. And if you eschew grading as juvenile, then keep
the reviews brief (it works for The
New Yorker) or tell me in the first paragraph: is this book worth my
time and money?
That’s all I ask.
In the midst of a recession, why would any NFL team dole out
first-round money to a quarterback? If I were a general manager, I would draft
anyone except a quarterback, if only
to avoid negotiating rookie bonuses against the steepest comparables.
But that’s not the only reason I’d steer clear of Georgia
Stafford and USC quarterback Mark
Sanchez. Both are overrated, and I disagree with the conventional wisdom labeling
them first-round talents.
True, Stafford has the best
arm in the class. But if you saw him play, you could not possibly believe he
possesses the consistency to start in the NFL, let alone merit the top overall
I watched Stafford closely in Georgia’s
24-12 victory in the Capital One Bowl
against Michigan State. His superb stats – 20 of 31 for
351 passing yards, three touchdowns, and one interception – belied a nervous starter
who handled a pass rush poorly, struggled with accuracy on short throws, and botched
timing on intermediate routes. His 11 incomplete passes were ugly. He reminded
me too frequently of the player who laid an egg at
Don’t get me wrong: based on his arm, size, SEC pedigree,
and year-to-year improvement, Stafford is
draft-worthy. But he is not a No. 1 overall pick and, in my view, he is not
first-round material. He is more like a Chad Henne-
Brohm-level talent: worth an investment, but no one to break the bank over.
I put Sanchez in the same echelon. Not once did I see him make a play that
screamed “NFL star.” He posted efficient numbers on a bully team with an
awesome defense. He deserves to be drafted, but I’d fire any general manager
who gave him first-round loot.
What’s especially comical about Stafford’s status is how mock
upon mock upon
him ahead of his teammate, running back Knowshon
Moreno. Talk about the tail wagging the dog. If anyone, Moreno
was the heart of the Georgia
offense. And Moreno
actually makes plays that scream “NFL star.” He has speed, hands, vision, wiggle,
and instincts. He is easily the best running back in the class. Yet the mocks
insist NFL teams would sooner invest in an iffy signal caller like Stafford
than a can’t-miss runner like Moreno.
It’s fucking crazy. It’s like drafting Raef LaFrentz
ahead of Paul
Two more points: (1) Oklahoma
State quarterback Zac Robinson (class
of 2010) will be a better pro than either Stafford
or Sanchez. (2) The steal of the draft is Missouri tight end Chase
Coffman. He is a taller Dallas Clark
with better hands. Coffman is potentially as dominant a pro as his teammate, scintillating
wide receiver Jeremy
Maclin. Yet NFL.com’s Mike
Mayock apparently hasn’t heard of Coffman. Someone wake him up.
I'll close with some terrific news: I recently received a Literature Artist Fellowship grant from the Somerville Arts Council (SAC), a local agency supported by the Massachusetts Cultural Council (MCC). A press release on my news page
is forthcoming. For now, I'd just like to thank the SAC and MCC. I'm
grateful to live in a city and state that support the arts in an
economic climate like this.
Ilan Mochari is a novelist and journalist living in the Boston area. His fiction has appeared in Keyhole and been honored by Glimmer Train. He is a former staff writer for Inc magazine, and he has also written for Fortune Small Business and CFO magazine. He has a B.A. in English from Yale University.