Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Reviewing

Oh, for god's sake:
I've heard about writers reviewing to return a favour, reviews written in revenge, authors so devastated by a bad review that they never wrote again. When you think about it, reviewing's a pig of a job. Someone else's years of hard work given over to an amateur, a fellow novelist with an (always strong) opinion in a very small town where everyone knows everyone else and there are thousands of overlapping agendas. Think about that next time you volunteer.
Think about this: fuck off.

A journalist friend told me about reviewing an Elmore Leonard novel negatively, then meeting the author a few months later at a literary festival. The critic found him dignified, charming, and modest, writing and speaking with as much care and professionalism at 84 as he'd done for the past 50 years. The flaws of the novel seemed suddenly insignificant, my friend told me, and he felt ashamed.

What if Leonard turned out to be an arrogant prick? Would the flaws of the novel suddenly become more significant?

Given all that, you just know what's coming...
Nowadays, I only review books I really like. It's cowardly, I know, but I figure it's not my job to make people unhappy. I'll leave that to the professionals.
There it is again: the "mean people suck" school of literary criticism. (More of that here.)

Reviewing can be a pain in the ass, and it can be tough to know that what you are writing will ruin someone's day/week/year. And yes, there are a lot of irresponsible or ill-equipped review(er)s out there, on both sides of the positivity fence. But how many times must this be said: if the only books that get reviewed are the ones the reviewers "like," then logically, the books getting ignored are the ones nobody "likes." All a "nothing but blue skies" approach does is relieve such reviewers of ever having to declare why they don't like said books. Which is an odd power to hand to a bunch of "amateurs."

1 comment:

Robert said...

Don't get me started...