• Baltimore


I read professor Jeff Kingston’s May 10 book review entitled “Continuing controversy of ‘comfort women’” with some degree of interest. It and the book it reviews (“The Comfort Women: Sexual Violence and Postcolonial Memory in Korea and Japan” by C. Sarah Soh) deal with a topic usually not addressed in a history of warfare.

The problem, of course, is that the taking or selling of young women apparently can’t be simply described; there are layers of personal political beliefs, family and cultural training, and other filters that any of us bring to bear when looking at something.

That said, it’s important for a review to present an overview and some indication of the value of a book. In general, I felt the review was helpful, but did it have to be so polysyllabic? I see this too often — the “never use one short word when two long words will do” treatment is a curse that seems to particularly affect the professional academic. I had to struggle to read the review — despite my interest in the seamy underbelly of World War II — simply because the review seemed to have been written less to communicate than to impress.

I’m sure that was not Kingston’s intention, but it is a trap I’ve seen all too many friends and colleagues fall into after years of writing for academic publications. I don’t set myself up as a paragon — I, too, struggle against pompous writing syndrome on a daily basis. I do try to keep in mind the principle of keeping it short and simple, and some of my best writing comes that way.

john robinson

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