Surprise of the Week: Dale Peck Doesn't Like Something

Dale Peck, previously notorious for his reviews of contemporary writers and for being slapped, proclaimed some time back that he would no longer write nasty reviews of books. Instead, apparently, he will write nasty reviews of extremely popular movies. Witness what he has to say about Star Wars.

I actually happen to pretty much agree with his negative assessment of the whole Star Wars franchise, having been immune to the cult from the early days, but ... why bother? Is Peck so desperate for attention that all he can do is try to anger some hapless Star Wars fan? Giving any more notice to a mass phenomenon like Star Wars if you're not a fan of it seems pointless to me. (At least when David Brin did it he had a variety of insights to offer.)

I'm not a Peck hater, but I've certainly lost the patience I once had for his writing. When I was 17 or so, his first novel, Martin & John, was a revelation to me, and I thought it was one of the best novels ever written. I carried it around for a month or two after reading it, keeping it near as a kind of talisman of all that was possible in art and life, or, rather, what I conceived art and life to be when I was 17 (ugh, those were embarrassing days). I've not reread the book since then, though, for fear of ruining the memory of what it was. I even liked a few of Peck's book reviews. But he seems to have become the sort of person who is habitually annoyed by other people's enthusiasms -- the kind of person who goes to birthday parties and loudly reminds everyone about the inevitability of death.


  1. A significant majority of the reportage around the last Star Wars movie is laudatory, despite the embarrassments of the recent films and the juvenile nature of the whole franchise. The movie was on the friggin' cover of Time.

    While you and I are well-aware of the limits of Star Wars, many many people are not. It's a spectacle to them and among the greatest of spectacles. Peck's critique comes at the right time and was published in the right place.

  2. How do you think the NY Observer is the right place? (I'm not saying it isn't, I'm just curious.) I'm not surprised at all that it's on the cover of Time and all the other mass market mags -- that's where I'd expect it to be. It's a big event. But who's taking it seriously as great filmmaking, or an advance of civilization or something? (I could definitely have missed some news and reviews.)

  3. The Observer is a fairly prominent cultural weekly -- what is published there ends up percolating down to other venues; its articles get quoted authoritatively on cultural issues.

    Great filmmaking and the advance of civilization? Here's what the Detroit News had to say:

    With it comes the end of the most popular and influential film series of all time. "Star Wars" practically invented the notion of blockbuster filmmaking, and the series' characters -- Han Solo, Luke Skywalker, R2D2, Yoda and super villain Darth Vader, for starters -- have made a massive dent in our collective consciousness. Clearly, the force was with series creator George Lucas and with the fans who've made the films a galaxy-wide phenomenon.

    A lot of the stuff appearing in "news" dailies and weeklies have the same tenor.

  4. Okay, the NY Times is going to make me have to take it all back. A.O. Scott ends his review with: "Taken together, and watched in the order they were made, the films reveal the cyclical nature of history, which seems to repeat itself even as it moves forward. Democracies swell into empires, empires are toppled by revolutions, fathers abandon their sons and sons find their fathers."

    And reviewers lose their minds. What is this, War and Peace?! I can certainly understand praising the special effects, and I can even understand saying, "Hey, this time the story almost even makes sense," but--

    Dale Peck, I apologize. You should take your hatchet and bury it in A.O. Scott's head.


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