A start-up idea

The last few days, I’ve been reading Gary Shteyngart’s Super Sad True Love Story. I mentioned this to Brad, and he said that it had been poorly reviewed. I’m less than halfway through and can see how the style and approach may wear itself out long before the end — my “philosophy” is that heavily cleverness-based writing needs to be short — but I also wondered how I might assess how well the book has actually been reviewed.

The solution: a Rotten Tomatoes site for books! As it turns out, there is such a site, called Omnivore, and it has determined that Shteyngart has received moderately positive reviews.

Of course, Omnivore doesn’t include every book, only those reviewed in the mainstream press (primarily in British papers). It is particularly weak on academic texts — even the noted public intellectual John Milbank does not warrant mention on the site.

And this is where our start-up comes in: we need to start a Rotten Tomatoes of academia, collecting reviews in journals and arbitrarily assigning star ratings to them. It could be a one-stop destination for all those trying to keep up with the hottest new titles in their fields, as well as publishers and tenure committees trying to assess the impact of particular academic works.

We already evaluate teaching on a five-star scale — why not scholarship as well? The hunger for “objective” assessment measurements is so great that our site could soon take on a Brian Leiter-esque level of influence. Indeed, we could probably get a start-up grant from the British government.

10 thoughts on “A start-up idea

  1. At first by “how well the book has actually been reviewed” I thought you meant a site that reviews the reviews, assessing whether their assessments accord with the actual quality of the book. Something like that has been done before, but it would take some chutzpah to do it generally.

  2. I was actually under the impression that it had been exceedingly well reviewed – see, for example, Kakutani’s effusive NY Time’s review. I am with Ben on this – we need a Google Scholar-type ranking system for popular press book reviews and non-academic writing in general. Maybe an extension of Google Scholar that just searches all writing on the web, period?

  3. Could probably put it together in a long afternoon if there are decent APIs for major journal aggregators – first AUFS sponsored web app?

  4. I was worried it would get old well before the end, but it really didn’t. Better than Absurdistan in that regard, I think. The radical shift in tone when the Rupture hits probably helps.

Comments are closed.