There is an essential dilemma when reviewing popularisations of specialist subjects. If I know enough about X to determine whether this introduction to X covers the ground throughly and accurately, without omission or distortion or misrepresentation, fairly and in a proportional and balanced manner – well, then I’m too knowledgeable to assess whether it is a good introduction for a lay audience, comprehensible to people new to the territory.

Anyway, what with having mysterious eye problems at present, fairly large-print books with lots of illustrations are extra appealing, and my local remaindered shop is knocking out a bunch of those Introducing… books about philosophy and science and the like at under three pounds a go. The print is large, and the first one I’ve read, Introducing Postmodernism, pairs writer Richard Appignanesi with cartoonist Chris Garratt, best known for Biff. I’m not sure that he does more than illustrate the text, mostly – only the occasional page is in anything like comic form, and I’m not sure how much we would lose by dropping 90% of the artwork.

I read this because I love various artistic manifestations of Postmodernism, and got interested in it because of all the PoMo authors I adore. I knew a bit here and there, but lacked an overview and knew little of the philosophical and historical ideas that I haven’t picked up from the novels I’ve read. I think the book does a pretty good job of bringing up and explaining lots of stuff, and although there are omissions (no discussion of literature at all!) I suspect it hits all the key points. I found it interesting and stimulating and useful enough that I’ve immediately moved on to one on Derrida, which makes this a recommendation. If we can get a reaction from someone properly educated in philosophy or cultural studies, maybe we can triangulate towards a real review.

Are people supposed to admit to reading primers of this kind? Have I made an intellectual faux pas?