A number of years ago — four? five? — I submitted a review of The Year of No Mistakes by Cristin O’Keefe Aptowicz to the venerable Believer magazine. Much to my delight, they accepted the review and planned to run it in a forthcoming issue. Then, much to my dismay, the magazine folded, and my review never saw the light of day. In the intervening years, Cristin O’Keefe Aptowicz went on to write a bestselling work of nonfiction titled Dr. Mutter’s Marvels while my review languished on a hard drive somewhere. But then I learned that the Believer was coming back, and now, years after I wrote the review, it’s finally up on the magazine’s web page: A Review of Cristin O’Keefe Aptowicz’s The Year of No Mistakes by Marc Schuster
Not that I really care, but I was buying a copy of my recent Beach Boys book for a friend when I spotted the sole customer review: “Not an informative write. Just personal opinions of the author. A more subjective review of the fairy tale would have been more interesting.”
Of course, I’m glad someone bought the book. I’m also happy with the three-star rating the reviewer gave it. Nonetheless, I’m having trouble reconciling a) the critique that the book consists only of the “personal opinions of the author” with b) the reviewer’s opinion that a “more subjective review” would have been “more interesting.” So the problem is that the book is both too subjective and not subjective enough? That there’s too much opinion and not enough opinion?
It’s also worth noting that although I do voice opinions and offer analysis throughout the book, I also include loads of facts — names, dates, quotes, historical context, and geographical details chief among them. So to describe it as an “uninformative write” (whatever that means) and nothing more than “personal opinions of the author,” I would argue, is inaccurate.
Again, not that I really care.
The six tracks on Baker Man’s When We Collide drift between the rough-hewn indie pop of early REM and the grinding garage punk of Dinosaur Jr. I also hear hints of the Decemberists and Ben Folds, particularly in the lead vocal of songwriter Mike Five on the album’s opening and closing tracks (“What Tradition Means” and “Keeping Score”). The latter of these is a shimmering six-and-a-half minute opus that’s equal parts dreamscape and early misty-morning hangover. Production on the album isn’t slick — nor is it meant to be — but it’s organic and has the feel of a live performance. These are the guys you saw performing in your buddy’s basement or your favorite dive bar in college. Smart lyrics, jangly guitars, and a healthy dose of world-weary cynicism.