Scatosyntheton

There’s been an unfortunate increase in the last four of five years of people who want to offer critical, opinionated reviews of books they haven’t read. This is usually done in an effort to prevent anyone else reading the book. A review of a book the author hasn’t read is, on the face of it, such an odd idea that many people are surprised it happens.

It not only happens, it’s become downright common.

The habit of critiquing a book the critiquer or reviewer has not read is in part related to people who want to ban books that they take issue with; like the parents of Litchfield, N.H. who want to ban books they haven’t read, but are absolutely positive are offensive, or any number of people who have objected to any number of literary works that are generally considered classics, but that they not only haven’t read, they don’t want anyone else to read them, either. These are people who have a socio-political agenda. They’re not really interested in books, or new ideas, or having old ideas challenged. They like living in a safe cave, isolated from those who are not like them.

In the last year or so there’s been a marked increase in people who haven’t read the book in question purporting to offer in depth critiques because they don’t like the author. Often these faux reviews are from other authors, and they are less about the books they haven’t read, as much as they are about jealousy because the writer is doing better professionally than the people offering fake critiques or reviews. It occurred to me, after a recent online burst of people fulminating about a book they hadn’t read, and in the process making it abundantly clear that they hadn’t read the book in question because they got basic plot items woefully wrong, that we need and completely lack a proper term for this particular rhetorical trope.

In crude terms, I suppose I’m looking for a Greek-inspired term that equates with “makes stuff up”; I’d considered cacosyntheton, but cacosyntheton has apparently replaced the earlier cacosyndeton for “improper, or ugly word-order.” Rhetorician Richard Lanham invented the Greek-inspired skotison, which means, literally, “darken it,” to refer to the practice of deliberately indulging in overly complex prose meant to be difficult, if not impossible, to understand. Lanham’s coinage suggested the invention of scatosyntheton, for, well, “making crap up,” and yes, it’s cognate with scatological. Go on, try it out: next time someone you know starts going on and on about a book they haven’t read—tell them they’re indulging in the vice of scatosyntheton.