The book reviewer’s dilemma

The greatest frustration a book reviewer has these days is word count.  Reviews are becoming shorter as are the book sections of newspapers and magazines.  I’ve written reviews that run 1000, 500, 350 and 300 words.  In other words, I often reduce a 90,000 word book into a column of type.

So who am I to complain when my copy gets truncated and I lose a paragraph out of a tightly argued review because of space restrications?  My review of historian Ayesha Jalal’s Partisans of Allah: Jihad in South Asia in Desi Life fell prey to that predicament. 

Now I may miss the following lines,

What makes this book fascinating is Jalal’s ability to show how the ideas around jihad were continually shifting.  An early reformer like Shah Waliullah may have inspired a jihad against the Sikhs in 1826, but half a century later, the founder of Aligarh University, Sayyid Ahmad Khan, was more interested in an educational jihad for his co-religionists than armed insurrection against the British. 

 But obviously someone else thought it unnecessary.  Maybe they were right, but I’d like to think the opposite.

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