In reviewing Kockroach by Tyler Knox in the December 31 NYTimes Book Review, Matt Weiland writes:

Our finest literary critics hold no endowed chairs and never win prizes, yet their work has the poetry of truth about it and there’s nobody better at answering the fundamental question about any book, a question always more interesting and always harder to answer than whether it’s any good: what is it really about? I mean, of course, the anonymous librarians who prepare the Cataloging in Publication data for the Library of Congress, the brief descriptive classifications that appear on the copyright page of most books. Is there a more succinct description of John Updike’s “Rabbit, Run” than “Middle class men — Fiction”? What writer doesn’t envy the economy and force of “Massacres — Fiction” for Cormac McCarthy’s “Blood Meridian” and “Industrial accidents — Fiction” for Don DeLillo’s “White Noise”? And will there ever be a finer gloss on Marilynne Robinson’s “Housekeeping” than “Eccentrics and eccentricities — Fiction”?

One Response to “Catalogers as Critics?”
  1. Sure, but then the LC subjects for Moby Dick are “Ship captains–Fiction” and “Whaling–Fiction” — which, while true, is pretty thin. To be fair though, another subject is “Mentally ill–Fiction”. Though it doesn’t specify whether that applies to the ship captain or the wahle.

  2.  
Leave a Reply