Many will recall the battles occasioned by Colin McGinn's review of Ted Honderich's book on consciousness. McGinn's review was, plausibly, criticized for being over-the-top in its nastiness. If the McGinn review serves as an example of the vice of excessive harshness, surely the vice in the other direction is exhibited in this reivew of Penelope Deutscher's book about Simone de Beauvoir. The reivew has recently appeared in the otherwise above reproach and extremely helpful Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews.
The review is, in my view, over-the-top positive, gushing even. Every paragraph heaps praise on the author and goes on about how "fascinating," "wonderful," "exciting," and "significant" the book is. The only thing approaching a criticism has it that the author "tends to content herself with pointing out some promising avenues for future exploration, rather than developing these latter in depth." But, lest this seem a downer, the reviewer quickly turns this aspect of the book into a positive: it "leaves exciting new work for Deutscher and for others to pursue in the future."
Now, I do not know the author of the review, and I do not know the author of the book being reviewed. I am in no position to evaluate the merits of the book and am willing to presume that it is an extremely good book deserving of a highly positive review. However, a review like this-- gushing with praise and offering no real criticisms-- seems to me inappropriate and utterly unhelpful. The review is basically an extended advertisement for the book, not a review. This does a disservice to the book and to its author.
Maybe McGinn should have declined to review Honderich, given that he could not restrain his hostility. Maybe, too, the author of this review should have declined to review Deutscher, given her own lack of restraint. Views?