rowland manthorpe's website

breakfast with socrates

I reviewed this about two months ago for the Literary Review and have been “getting round” to posting it up ever since. Productivity reaches a new high.

Robert Rowland Smith is a consultant,writer and teacher with a great middle name. His book seems to be being received well, although it did get an enjoyably vicious review in the Observer, from Theodore Dalrymple:

No thought is too banal for Rowland Smith; unfortunately, his banality is perfectly compatible with error. He rarely loses an opportunity to suppress what is true and suggest what is false.

Funny, but harsh. I thought this was a case of “wrong reviewer, wrong book.” Dalrymple – a bit of a gun – seemed almost offended to be asked to review a work of popular philosophy. He attacked the form and genre, rather than the content, and gave little impression that he had actually read beyond the table of contents.

Reviewing is an immanent art. It works best when it adapts to the goals and conventions of its subject (while bearing in mind the genre, of course). Smith’s book is far from perfect. But Dalrymple’s review was the equivalent of criticising Woolf for failing to develop minor characters or Powell for lacking gripping plots.

You can read my effort (the original, not the cruelly cut Literary Review version) after the jump.

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