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The Anonymous Book Review Experiment

 by Julie Hanus

Tags: Great writing, books and publishers, book review, experiments, literary criticism, Justin Taylor, The Believer, Julie Hanus,

Catcher in the Rye coversIn a literary experiment that perhaps only The Believer could have dreamt up, critic Justin Taylor accepts a challenge to review a book—stripped of identifying marks. Check it out:

A few months ago, the editors of this magazine asked if I would be interested in being part of an experiment in criticism. They were curious what would happen if we inverted the standard “anonymous review” formula—if instead of the reviewer having the cloak of anonymity, we were to keep the book under review anonymous from its critic, and thereby shield it from any and all prejudice—whether positive or negative, whether directed at the author, the publishing house, the blurbers, the cover art, etc.

I swore several oaths to stay true to the project (Eds.: “No googling”), and soon enough a book arrived at my house. Its covers, front matter, and endpages had all been stripped, and the spine blacked out with a Sharpie. I didn’t know what it was called or who wrote it or who was publishing it or when. I didn’t know if it was the author’s first or twenty-first publication. Fiction? Nonfiction? Genre? Self-published? I didn’t know anything (and at this writing, I still don’t) except that it wasn’t poetry.

What could I do? I began to read.

Intrigued? Read Taylor’s account of the anonymous reading experience that prompts him to conclude: “Every reviewer—every reader—should hope to be so lucky.”

Source: The Believer

Image by j/k_lolz, licensed under Creative Commons.