Mr. Ferenstein also interprets as "nepotism", meaning favoritism, the paper's finding that "connected" authors receive better reviews. That I think is subject to interpretation. Does Joe Dokes, who has reviewed for the NY Times, get good reviews because they know his face, or did he get to review for Times because the editors admired his previous work?
The mainstream reviews have their faults, which have been catalogued by excellent critics. Yet I find that Amazon reviewers give out a lot of high scores to books I would score low. To name a couple:
- Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet, by Jamie Ford. Out of 682 reviews on Amazon, 520+ were 5 or 4 stars out of 5. A hinge of the plot involves a Chinese father, during WW II, planning to send his son from Seattle to Canton to finish his education. If Mr. Ford had picked up a history book, he might have noticed that Canton was then occupied by the Japanese.
- The Rules of Civility, by Amor Towles. Out of 217 reviews, 168 are 4 or 5 stars. I found it implausible as to character and plot, and awkwardly written in too many places.