Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Party Foul

So if you have been paying attention at all over the last few months, you've heard about Scott Smith's new horror/thriller The Ruins. Some of the best reviews of the summer. Note how the Amazon reviews (the professional ones, anyway) carefully avoid blowing the nature of the nasty surprise that awaits our heroes in the Yucatan jungle. Other reviewers followed suit. All except for this jackass (warning, major spoiler). I managed to avoid ruining the surprise for 3 months until Slate's Brian Curtis made the decision for me in the guise of advising me whether to read the book. F--- you, Brian Curtis.

There should be a term to describe a critic who blows the surprise because he either doesn't care about his readers or is so impressed with his own intelligence that he thinks his readers won't catch his clever allusions. The latter is worse - several years ago the New Republic's critic blew the surprise in The Sixth Sense by including a reference to An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge. That may have been my first and only letter to the editor and it read something very much like this: "Dear _________, Even those of us who didn't go to Columbia know that Peyton Farquhar is really dead. Asshole. "

The phenomenon is more frustrating than ever these days because the vast expansion of pop culture writing makes it much more difficult to keep a secret. I remember being blown away that the producers of Seven managed to keep Kevin Spacey's role under the radar (for anyone who has not seen Seven by now I invoke the just-invented 5 year rule of pop culture secrets).

Any other examples of nasty critical spoilers and/or great secrets?


Tripp said...

Slate isn't alone man. The Oregonian put a huge review by columnist Steve Duin who ruined the Ruins as did the Washington Post which even alluded to the baddie in the title of its review!

I think this part of the culture of bad reviewing. Use your brain!

As for other great secrets, books have generally been protected, movies not as much.

Tripp said...

I was just looking at one of those one paragraph reviews on Amazon, from Booklist or whoever. It was for a Charles Stross novella, and it laid out the plot and the surprise twist. It was for a pricey little volume as well. Bastards.