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Why Should I Cut Your Throat?: Excursions into the Worlds of Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror Paperback – 1 Nov 2004

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 3 reviews
12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
Good Stuff But Also A Lot of Padding 12 Jun. 2005
By Abigail Nussbaum - Published on
Format: Paperback
In the last few years, Jeff VanderMeer has become one of my favorite writers of modern fantasy. His Ambergris stories in particular opened my eyes to the possibilities of the genre, and through his weblog I've found his observations on the state of the genre insightful and fascinating. VanderMeer has a unique perspective, as an outsider (published by small presses and POD) who became an insider, and so his nonfiction provides a fresh approach to the business and art of writing fantasy. Unfortunately, while there are some stellar pieces in Why Should I Cut Your Throat, the collection is padded with a great deal of material that doesn't merit compilation and preservation for the ages.

Why Should I Cut Your Throat is divided into three segments. The first, Career & Craft, discusses VanderMeer's growth as a writer and his efforts to get his work published. Of particular note is "City of Saints and Madmen: The Untold Story", in which VanderMeer describes not only the artistic genesis of Ambergris, but also his struggle to get stories set in that city published, and finally to publish a collection of these stories. The essay is a fascinating look behind the scenes of small press publishing and of the challenges that face writers outside the mainstream. The rest of the Career segment isn't half as interesting. Did we really need, for example, an interview with the artist who drew the original City of Saints and Madmen cover?

The next section collects VanderMeer's reviews over a period of a decade. Most of the reviews are the kind you'd expect to find in a periodical - a brief discussion of the book's plot and an overview of its strengths and weaknesses. In other words, not something that needs to be preserved for the ages. With the possible exception of some year's best essays and a wonderfully snarky takedown of a short story anthology, none of the reviews collected in this section deserve posterity.

Why Should I Cut Your Throat really comes alive in its final third, Criticism. The essays collected here - including retrospectives on the lives and works of Angela Carter, Edward Whittemore, Cordwainer Smith and Barry Hughart, as well as a scathing indictment of the state of modern horror - are thoughtful and erudite - the kind of essays a collection of nonfiction should consist of. They stand the test of time, and inspire readers to think about genre writing and pick up new works.

The three segments are punctuated by 'interludes' in which VanderMeer describes his experiences at various genre conventions in 1990, 1999, 2002 and 2003. The essays chart VanderMeer's progression as a writer, a fan, and a person (he's a callow 23-year-old in the first one, a married man with a teenage daughter in the last), and are a funny and touching perspective on the often bizarre convention experience.

These essays, and the ones collected in the Criticism section, deserve preservation and collection. I'm glad I read them. However, the fact remains that a full 2/3 of Why Should I Cut Your Throat is padding. VanderMeer is a wonderful essayist, but there wasn't really enough of his nonfiction to justify a collection just yet, and it's a pity his publishers decided to offer his readers substandard work instead of waiting for an intelligent and thoughtful writer to provide them with enough material.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
An insider's view of the world of SF, fantasy, & horror 16 May 2005
By Kelly C. Shaw - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Why Should I Cut Your Throat?, the first essay collection by one of America's finest young authors, Jeff VanderMeer (City of Saints and Madmen, Secret Life), is part humorous insider's view of the SF, fantasy, and horror scene (i.e. VanderMeer's experience at the 1999 World Fantasy Convention), part compilation of VanderMeer's previously published reviews, and part an infectious appreciation of VanderMeer's favorite authors (one comes away from these essays wanting to hunt down the works of Angela Carter and Edward Whittemore).

Regardless of its parts, it is always brave and brutally honest (one wonders, after reading some of VanderMeer's scathing reviews, how much hate mail he has received), always compassionate and encouraging (particularly to aspiring writers in his notes on how to teach creative writing). But above all, it is a passionate, compulsively readable love letter to the imagination.

Anyone who believes fantasy is simply orcs and hobbits, or doubts the literary merits of contemporary fantasy, needs to buy this book.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
great book, amazing author 26 Aug. 2008
By B. Alexander - Published on
Format: Paperback
I have been a major fan fo jeff since i picked up a copy of City of Saints and Madmen from an employee picks section of a borders. This book is a collection of stories about his time spent in atlanta for a convention, and many reviews and anecdotes he has written over the years. Jeff uses his emmense imagination to make even an atlanta convention a great, wonderful, insightful, and surreal place. If he wrote the phone book, id read it cover to cover. The end.
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