How to Write Book Reviews without Appearing Completely Stupid
Submitting Poems,
Reviews, Articles or Essays
One of the most popular features of RALPH's predecessor magazine, The Fessenden Review, was the fact that the door was open to all writers --- known or unknown --- to submit reviews, poetry, drawings, reporter-at-large articles, or political and social commentaries.

The Review printed a surprising number of over-the-transom submissions, and discovered some fine new talent in the process.

Few of the reviewers whose names appeared on the pages of The Fessenden Review were famous or known (although some have since gone on to greater glory). Indeed, many of the most interesting writings came from "gifted amateurs" --- those who showed a love of reading, those who fell easily into the anarchistic confederation that constituted the magazine's staff and editors.

With RALPH, we will continue to honor this open-door tradition. Any and all of those reading the magazine are urged to join us on the other side of the editorial desk.

We saw then --- we see now --- our task as one of breaking down the artificial barriers constructed by the East Coast elite who forbid commerce between those who own the means of production, and those who consume it.

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The best way to submit articles or reviews to RALPH is by e-mail. All submissions can be sent to us at

Please DO NOT send as an attachment, but merely as plaintext e-mail. In the subject line, note it as "submission."

If you send a manuscript by mail, it should be addressed to:

  • Box 16719
  • San Diego CA 92176

We suggest the following form for book reviews:

  • Full title of book;
  • Name of author;
  • Publishing company (if a small publisher, include address);
  • Date of publication and price;
  • Your name and address and a short biography.

The text of the review should be written with simplicity and dignity, using the King's English. Avoid dangling participles, pretentious sentences, and show-off words. Be insightful, witty, reasoned, literate, and pithy. In all cases do not, repeat, do not put the editors to sleep with your words.

We cannot tell you how long to make your review...that has to be a matter between you and the page, if not god.

Our take on most book reviewers --- especially experienced ones --- is that they don't realize that the Standard, Reasoned, Thoughful, Careful Book Review isn't worth reading . . . much less posting for the world to read.

We want reviews that expose pomposity and arrogance and foolish pride, that expose the lack of grand writing and great plotting. We want our writers to scorn predictability and ridicule the turgid and the bombastic.

At the same time, this is not a mere seek-and-destroy mission. We want reviews that praise the true artist --- lauding the known and the unknown with equal fervor. We want our reviewers to search out honest, rich and insightful literature --- to describe it with words that are, in themselves, art.

For examples of solid reviewing, spend some time with The New Yorker, The New York Review of Books or --- better --- get a subscription to the TLS or the London Review of Books. You might also look up some of the great reviewers of twenty or thirty years ago from the pages of The New Statesman, The Manchester Guardian (of England), Saturday Night Magazine (of Canada), and --- from even further back --- The Smart Set, The American Mercury, and (best of all) the reviews of Virginia Woolf (1919-1940).

You might even look at our home page, and read old copies of Fessenden Review so you can see what we were about when we were about.

To see how not to write, study the book review sections of most U. S. dailies --- especially the large, ugly newspaper chains like Gannett, Newhouse, Scripps-Howard, Copley or Knight-Ridder. As further examples of how not-to-do-it, look over reviews in Time, Newsweek, or others of their ilk. After some time, you will see that their reviewers are scared of something: --- perhaps, of being original, or alive, or funny; or, at best, being smart-ass.

In all cases, if you decide to try book reviews for us, you can send, along with your submission, a couple of meaningful quotes --- 250 - 1,000 words in length --- from the book you are reviewing. We may place them in our READINGS section so people can get a feeling for the work being examined.

With any submission, please be patient. Our staff will get to it as quickly as possible. If it is terrible, we'll send it back --- if you sent it by mail, if you sent enough postage, if you pray. If it's a kick, we will let you know ASAP.

We do pay, too, in a fashion. Your first accepted submission will get you a free copy of THE NOISIEST BOOK REVIEW IN THE KNOWN WORLD, our double anthology of poems, essays, readings, reviews and articles from RALPH's earliest years. It lists for $50 for the twin volumes, but for new writers it will turn up pro bono so to speak. Books will be sent the moment of acceptance.

--- Lolita Lark,
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