Harsh Words for Griffin -The Toast

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9417995Previously in Tommy Wallach’s series of harsh criticisms of the genuine work of small children doing their best: Becky.

Alexander Hamilton: The Outsider

Reviewed by Griffin C. 

I thought that Alexander Hamilton: The Outsider was amazing. I love history and anything about it, especially wars and reading about different people. Alexander Hamilton was a man of power. He was born in the Caribbean and because his parents weren’t married he was called an outsider. When he got older he came to the US to study and was in the army. When England attacked the colonies, he was in the fight, firing till the end. He was also a nice man. In the later days, Alexander Hamilton became Secretary of Treasury. Then one day he was blown away with some bad news. He was told that his nineteen year old son was going to be in a duel to save his dad’s reputation. A couple days later it was the duel. Philip (who was Alexander’s favorite son) held his fire. What a dumb move! If you are in a life or death situation and you don’t fire your weapon you’re crazy. Who does that? The other man, Eacker, wasn’t hesitant and shot Philip once. Philip died the next day. About three years later, Alexander got into a duel himself. He was battling the Vice President. So, it was the Secretary of the Treasury vs. the Vice President…not a good thing. The turnout wasn’t so good. Alexander’s shot had missed. But Burr’s didn’t. They took Hamilton to his Friends house nearby. There he died the next morning. I liked reading this book. I think everyone should read it.


“I thought that Alexander Hamilton: The Outsider was amazing.” There is a term in journalism called “burying the lede.” You have done the opposite of that here. You have exhumed the lede, dressed it up like the winner of a challenge on RuPaul’s Drag Race, and set it on fire. Your reader wants to know what you thought of the book, but you don’t have to give us the full monty on the first date. Tease us, Griffin. Make us work for it. How about: “Alexander Hamilton: The Outsider had a powerful effect on me. I haven’t felt this strongly about a book since Goodnight, Moon.” See how this creates a tension? We don’t know whether your reaction was positive or negative, only that it was strong. (Now given, Goodnight, Moon may not be a good example, as only a baby-eating, Stain’d-listening monster could have a problem with it.) 

“I love history and anything about it, especially wars and reading about different people.” Grammatical issue. This implies you love reading about people, but you love actual wars. If this isn’t what you meant, you need to polish up your parallel structures. If it is what you meant, you may be a sociopath.

“[AH] was born in the Caribbean…and he was called an outsider.” If Alexander Hamilton had been born in the Caribbean, he wouldn’t have been called an outsider, but a blan, the Haitian-Creole word for “stranger.” It’s called cultural sensitivity, Griffin. Being eleven is no excuse for being a chauvinist asshole.

“[AH] was also a nice man.” At this stage in your review, you began to lose track of your subject, mistaking the man for the book. This is an easy trap to fall into, but also a dangerous one. By this metric, you would likely be a big fan of biographies of Mother Teresa and Martin Luther King, and a vociferous critic of biographies of Hitler and Stalin (unless my suspicion that you’re a sociopath bears out, in which case, the reverse would be true). Either way, don’t forget that the job of the critic is to slowly and carefully weigh the positives against the negatives of the work in question, then focus on the negatives and hammer them over and over again with a series of pithy one-liners.

“Then one day he was blown away with some bad news.” Was he? Was he totally blown away? Wasn’t it, like, awesome? How totally, like, blown away he was? Jesus Q. Christ, Griffin. This isn’t Happy Hour at Chili’s or rush week at a sorority or Los Angeles! This is a serious work of criticism! Please refrain from any informal language or slang. 

“What a dumb move! If you are in a life or death situation and you don’t fire your weapon you’re crazy.” First off, technically this is a dumb non-move. Secondly, in light of recent events surrounding Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” laws and a certain George Zimmerman, I think you’re being more than a little bit inconsiderate. Also, this sentence seems to provide further corroboration of the possible mental problem I ascribed to you earlier. What constitutes a life or death situation, Griffin? Any time you’re afraid? Have you considered the possibility that Alexander Hamilton simply didn’t want to take the life of another human being? And you call that weakness? Perhaps you ought to look into the philosophy of Mahatma Gandhi. Or else electroshock therapy. 

“The turnout wasn’t so good.” Were they selling tickets, Griffin? Were there bleachers? It seems you can’t imagine why anyone would pass up the chance to attend an event such as this one. To watch two grown men go at each other like animals. To see the crimson spurt, almost like a blossom, as the bullet found its mark, the face turning ashen as the eyes began to perceive a spectral realm beyond the material, the juxtaposition of the hot blood still pumping strong in your eleven-year-old veins and the slowing and eventual cessation of the pulse of another living creature, experiencing an excitement that is not quite sexual but isn’t entirely unsexual either? Would that be a fair assessment of the situation, Griffin?

“I liked reading this book. I think everyone should read it.” The assumption that everyone would get the same sadistic, erotic charge from this violent biography is the final nail in the coffin regarding your mental health. For shame, Griffin C. For shame.

Grade for your review: C- (don’t forget to run a grammar check before handing in any future assignments)

Grade for your humanity: F (go live in a cabin in the woods and never speak to another human being again)

Tommy is a writer and musician whose debut novel, "We All Looked Up," will be published by Simon & Schuster in Spring 2015. He tumbles here and twitters here.

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