The Confessions of Christopher Farah

Christopher Farah’s second Salon book review has a low-concept spiteful approach that seems perfect for one of those free liberal weekly rags that you pick up at a cafe and read on the crapper. Farah is a critic incapable of enjoying science fiction (apparently, this is how he categorizes any novel involving magical realism), let alone putting aside genre distinctions for the sake of enjoying a book. Farah is a needlessly bitter and angry worm who cannot put aside a goofy premise for the sake of a good read.

Or is he? The review shifts near the end and suddenly plays nice.

Salon wants us to whip out our credit cards for this?

Of course, in a free weekly, the reviewer’s name would be subject to ridicule — and the review would be trite, overly ad hominen and shallow. Perhaps with a touch of genuine passion, but ultimately unprintable in any place publishing serious criticism. Instead, Christopher Farrah’s review purports to be a serious work of criticism, housed in an online outlet that believes itself to be PBS, with the ads functioning as surrogate pledge breaks. It is a review written with too many clauses and lots of bitter modifers, presumably with the hope that this will transform what is obviously an out-to-lunch attack piece (or at least half an attack) into an essay that doesn’t even understand the basics of speculative fiction.

Imagine a thirtysomething critic that you hope to get a reasonable opinion from on a book. But instead, he pulls down his pants and moons you. Then he calls you an idiot for daring to find something positive about the piece of turd coming out of his ass. And then he turns around and kisses you on the lips.

That is Christopher Farah in a nutshell. No subtlety, no wit. Strange flip-flops (several of them in fact) inside paragraphs. Not even a hint of reason. Just a man going after the strangest targets with unjustified piss and vinegar. It recalls the French revolution in 1789. But instead of crazed mobs calling for “liberty, equality and brotherhood,” Christopher Farah calls for the anonybloggers to reveal themselves and books to clarify their literatary categorization. I could be wrong, but there might be more pressing issues of our time.

And now the Tivoli review which, at its essence, is neither a love story, a hate piece, nor fantasy or science fiction. One would hope that its unchecked fire and its cross-spectrum fulminating represents something satirical. But, no, it appears he’s serious. What’s really odd is how Farah, after spending paragraphs bemoaning the “gimmick,” then turns around to call the book “an excellent read.”

Either Farah is a schizophrenic writer, or he’s unintentionally amusing us. You make the call.

(Hat tip: Beatrice.)