Last night my agent sent me an email with a review attached–from Booklist, one of the other major industry review journals (besides Publisher’s Weekly and Library Journal, which called my mind “fertile” but hasn’t done a full review yet). So here it is….
The History of the Ancient World: From the Earliest Accounts to the Fall of Rome.
Bauer, Susan Wise (author).
Feb. 2007. 800p. Norton, hardcover, $29.95 (0-393-05974-X). 930.
REVIEW. First published January 1, 2007 (Booklist).
Bauerâ€™s annals, which span the millennia between the traces of Sumer and the Roman emperor Constantineâ€™s conversion to Christianity in 312 CE, are an attractive introduction to a subject vast in time and geography. She writes briskly and interpretively, and is attuned throughout to the challenge of rulers: appearing to the ruled as legitimate holders of power. This sensibility makes her narratives acutely interesting, as Bauer pierces the biases inherent in most ancient sources to discern the sincerity or the cynicism with which power seekers pursued their goals. Above, approval of the divine was invaluable; on Earth, a loyal army was indispensable. Acquiring both enabled lawgivers to make their writ stick, and Bauerâ€™s chronicles exhibit the interaction of priestly, military, and legal powers as empires and dynasties wax and wane. This endows continuity to her accounts of polities as disparate as the Harappan civilization of the Indus River or the states that emerged from misty prehistory along the Yellow and Yangtze rivers to form China. Nonacademic and sometimes colloquial in composition, Bauerâ€™s survey will spark the imagination.
â€” Gilbert Taylor
YA/C: The chronological organization, many maps and graphs, and accessible writing make this a must-have resource for advanced history students. GE.
My agent also wanted to know whether he should continue to send me copies of reviews, which (good or bad) have the potential to throw the creative process into chaos.
So I thought this over, and here’s what I wrote back:
“I know this sounds ridiculously feeble, but could you send the good ones along and put the ones that contain criticisms in a file? When I finish the next book in April 2008, I’d like to ask you to pull that file back out and send me anything that contains helpful remarks (you can ditch the really savage ones). But I want to get the next MS totally done first.”
I’m hoping that will combine the benefits of criticism with the benefits of ignoring what other people think of what you write.