At AWP this year, we asked bookfair attendees to review a book—any book they liked—in one sentence. We got a lot of creative responses, from five words to fifty-three, from questions to statements to imperatives, and from glowing to critical to cryptic. We also got a lot of semicolons, which we were okay with; the entry that was two sentences long, not so much.
But after all that, we had to pick a winner. So congratulations to Alexandra Reisner, from New Orleans, for her review of Hiroshima, by John Hersey:
There are not many Christians in Japan, but Hersey seems to have found them all.
This worked, we thought, on a lot of levels: a neat summary, a thoughtful critique, and enough of a tease to make you want to read the book. In short, it’s everything a review should be, and in just one sentence. Alexandra wins a year’s subscription to the print magazine, a Ploughshares tote bag, and the chance to submit a full review to the blog.
Two further entries also earned honorable mentions, and the chance to submit full reviews. First, Kim Liao’s review of The Great Gatsby, which we admired for Kim’s willingness to really engage (successfully, we think) with the constraints of the format:
The bespeckled billboard eyes, roar of the stylish yellow car, clink of martini glasses, bellowing music, flickering light, cove on the north shore of Long Island, dream—that flimsy, whimsical, hilarious sharp-edged dream, of being someone else and almost getting away with it; Gatsby’s world is such a lovely, terrible place to live.
(N.B. Kim actually published a full review with us already, back in December—but we judged blind, so chalk it up to editorial consistency!)
Finally, the second honorable mention goes to Dinty W. Moore, for his wry boiling-down of Joan Didion’s Blue Nights (which we also reviewed last December):
Joan is sad, but so so smart.
Congratulations to Dinty, and again to Kim and Alexandra—and to everyone else who entered, a hearty thank you again!