Fuse #8

Thursday, March 15, 2007

The Chicken Dance

It's become a bit of a problem. I used to write these online reviews, sans blog, that didn't get all that much attention. And with the exception of one YA author who shall remain nameless (he knows who he is) I never received so much as a peep of complaint from any writer over my words.

Times have changed. I've moved up in the world to this sweet library in the heart of Manhattan. I've grown accustomed to the fact that authors are going to come to my town and that I'm located a scant block or so from their editors. They say hello. We chat. It's all very pleasant. Then I sit down with one of their books, find it blah or (worse) notso hotso and therein lies my dilemma. Do I write a negative review and end up dealing with a sticky situation or be honest and deal with the consequences?

You know who's currently playing the world's smallest violin for me right now? Roger Sutton. Roger's for honesty, man. We can't go about watering down our reviews willy-nilly just because, boo-hoo, some poor author's going to feel bad somewhere. NEVER! Says he, "The author-reviewer relationship is unavoidably adversarial: one is judging the other. To have it otherwise means we should just all go work in publicity." That's a mighty good point. After all, I'm not exactly getting paid here.

I was recently blurbed on an author's website as liking a book when what I had written was a brief "What I'm Reading Now" mention saying that it was good "thus far." And the "thus", suffice it to say, didn't extend all that far after all. I'll end up writing the review anyway, of course. If I don't feel good about it, that's fine. Reviewing isn't all sunshine, kittens, and roses after all. I appreciate a healthy kick in the pants to remind me of this once in a while.

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At 1:28 AM , Blogger scott e said...

This is an interesting dilemma. Authors and Illustrators want the good reviews and to me bad reviews are part of the game. A review is just an opinion.

Rick Walton (author) said once. "You are making a mistake to listen too closely to the bad review, and a bigger mistake to listen too closely to a good review."

Keep writing and illustrating the reviews are about the old work. Keep creating new work!

(It should be noted that the above statement is how I am suppose to treat reviews, but the reality is that it takes years to "birth" a book and we all want to be told that our babies are beautiful. Some babies are only beautiful to their parents.)

At 10:13 AM , Blogger Gwenda said...

The first time I gave a negative/lukewarm review to a book for a professional reviewing gig, I saw the book in the store later and they'd pulled out a random sentence as a blurb. I wanted to say, dude, accessible and fast-pased are _not_ high praise. But so it goes.

Anyway, I won't hesitate to give a negatory opinion on a book for a professional reviewing assignment (obviously), but I do tend to avoid them on the site. This may be because I don't really consider myself a reviewer, and think of the blog as a place where I make recommendations. But I'm all for honesty in reviewing and individual reviewers having their own code. As long as a reviewer isn't doing dishonest reviews (for whatever reason), I'm okay with the spectrum.

At 10:14 AM , Blogger Gwenda said...

Er, paced, even. (Allergy season has officially begun.)

At 11:07 AM , Blogger zeelibrarian said...

Hmmm, maybe there should be some sort of immunity agreement. Like I am thinking of when we accept donated books at the library, we let them know upfront that they may or may not make the cut to be put on library shelves. We tell the patron we will either put them on shelf or donate them to our booksale. They are now the property of X county. So, maybe you give them all the options that could happen upfront and ask them what would you like me to do if my review is not positive? That's a tough situation to be in.

At 12:34 PM , Blogger Becky said...

Here is my philosphy on reviewing books. I try to find something positive to say. Usually it's not hard. Most of what I read ranges from mediocre entertainment that may not ever make my "re-read" pile but isn't that awful...to really great books. There are some books, however, I feel I am doing a public service announcement by pointing out the truth--blunt as it may be. It's one thing to not like a book personally but think it's fine--for example, I'll never *gush* about some books. It's quite another to have a painful, torturous book that you can't imagine anyone persevering through and enjoying it.

I'd rather read honest reviews than fake ones. I don't want someone to lie to me through their teeth saying a book is good or memorable or wonderful or whatever...when it isn't. I like reviews that say here are the good points, BUT there are one or two things that aren't quite so perfect.


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