The Case Against Malcolm Jones

There’s one other thing I should note about Malcolm Jones’ laziness. I was contacted by the book’s publicist to interview Vikram Chandra. I offered profuse apologies to the very nice publicist, pointing out that, as good as this sounded, I simply did not have the time in my schedule to read the 900-page book. You see, I wanted to give Chandra the same respect that I give to all the authors I talk with, which involves reading the book from start to finish and actively thinking about it.

I have never interviewed a single author in which I have not finished the book. And I refuse to talk with an author in a long-form interview if I am not permitted enough time to do this. (And I’ve had to cancel out on some very good authors because of this. Alas, one can only do so much.)

The mainstream media has long accused bloggers of being lazy reporters. If anything, this Malcolm Jones flap illustrates that some mainstream media reviewers might possibly be lazier.

To me, it seems a requisite that if you are being paid to write a review, whether you like the book or hate it, you should be professional enough to read it to the very end. Whether the book is 200 pages or 1,000 pages. Whether the book is breezy or dense. Whether the book employs arcane words and references or employs a less demanding timbre. That Jones could not fulfill this basic duty suggests to me that he has no business writing book reviews. He should leave this to the professionals.


  1. Jones should’ve had his pay docked for the week at best, shitcanned at worst. As a professional he should have simply not reviewed the book in question if he didn’t finish the book.

    The “amateur” (in the old sense of the word) is frequently more passionate than the professional. I assume you don’t see much if any monetary gain for your podcasts, which means you’re driven by passion. Jones, on the other hand, is reviewing books for money, a mercenary.

  2. I can’t believe this “review” by Malcolm Jones. I can’t believe this man calls himself a professional book critic. It makes me angry.

  3. Well called. He puts the final nail in his own coffin at the end:

    When I read “Bleak House,” I broke one of the cardinal rules of reading: I skipped ahead—not because I was bored, but because Esther had the pox and I had to see if she was going to live or die. That book really got its claws in me. But here’s a funny thing: I didn’t finish “Bleak House” either. I didn’t stop, though, because I wasn’t engaged by the story. I stopped because I couldn’t bear to have it end. I’ve done that maybe three times in my life with books I’ve loved, because I wanted them to go on forever. And at least in the case of “Bleak House,” it didn’t matter all that much any way because, hey, I saw the movie.

    Of course there are many serious readers who have, for one reason or another, not finished Bleak House. But for anyone to claim that the reason they didn’t do so was because they couldn’t bear to have the story end is just shoveling so much of what Jo the crossing-sweeper spends his short life sweeping.

  4. The moral of the story is to put good wank-off stuff every fifty pages so that Malcolm can keep a-going!

  5. This infuriates me. Like you, Ed, I read EVERY book I review. Sometimes for short interviews I don’t manage to finish the book because of scheduling, and it’s very upsetting. But for review? NO EXCUSES — as Jennifer Howard has noted, you must must must read book from beginning to end. Unprofessional to do otherwise. Is Jones in NBCC? If so, he should have his membership revoked.

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