The Complete Review: A Site History:
Eleven Years, 2500 Reviews

M.A. Orthofer

aesthetics of resistance 2010
A book review by Danny Yee © 2011
The Complete Review is a history of the web site of the same name, at, and the accompanying blog The Literary Saloon, coupled with a small sample of reviews from that site and some general observations on the state of book reviewing, online and in the print media.

Orthofer's experiences with The Complete Review parallel my own surprisingly closely. Part of that is a result of the common context, publishing book reviews online, but we also share preferences for simple web pages, without clutter or flash, a determination to maintain old URLs, and a broader persistence of structure and purpose. And there has been some cross-fertilisation over the years.

So it is hard to separate myself from this material enough to see how interesting it will be to others. Those running literary web sites or publishing book reviews online are an obvious if small audience, perhaps along with regular readers of the Complete Review curious about its background and history.

Of broader interest is Orthofer's discussion of reviewing, which surveys the general state of book reviews online and in print, and the history of the Literary Saloon. The latter goes into some of his pet peeves, such as the poor fiction and translation coverage of the New York Times Book Review.

Twelve sample reviews from The Complete Review are included, one from each year of operation. This is a nice selection and should attract any readers who haven't seen it already to the web site. (I found it easier to read these in print, but the web site with its 2500+ reviews is obviously vastly more useful.)

The Complete Review made a good read, but I'm not inspired to publish something similar. I wonder if a more useful resource wouldn't be a complete set of reviews — mine or Orthofer's — repackaged as a smartphone app for use while browsing bookshops.

Disclaimer: I consider Orthofer a colleague — we have corresponded for more than a decade now — and my own site gets several mentions in The Complete Review as well as many links from the Complete Review itself.

April 2011

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%T The Complete Review: A Site History
%S Eleven Years, 2500 Reviews
%A Orthofer, M.A.
%I aesthetics of resistance
%D 2010
%O paperback
%G ISBN-13 9780557750375
%P 183pp