Fuse #8

Tuesday, April 17, 2007


Ah me. It's nice to live in an age alongside people who dig trashing new technologies and modes of communication. Recently, the literary journal n+1 went on an anti-blog reviewer tirade of a particularly curmudgeonly bent. The piece takes issue with the fact that now any old joe on the street can criticize whatsoever they chose to. Names are not named (more's the pity) but it brings up some worthy points. Does an increase in critics cheapen the notion of criticism itself or democratize it? The question here is whether or not criticism as an art is in danger particularly when we're still dealing from the repercussions that came when, "argument in the academies gave way to 'respect'". One might point out that this self-same "respect" is alive and well in the blogosphere. Is there something to be said for out-and-out unapologetic fire and verve? For bloggers that tell the truth even when it isn't nicey nicey? Or is that just an excuse to be rude?

This all applies to the kidlit reviewers out there. Which is to say, it's a slightly rehashed version of the eternal Should a Blogger Post Negative Reviews question that keep popping up.

Thanks to Jen Robinson for the link.

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At 10:41 AM , Blogger Jess said...

hi there,

That's a good question - re: truth even if it isn't "nicey nice." I think one approach might be to reflect on how we would act in real life, would we be as critical, as free with our "fire and verve?" If so, then I guess that's more of a personality question. Of course it's good to be critical but, I think, it can and should all be done in a professional manner. That's the key.

What do you think?

Thanks for the link. :)

At 10:50 AM , Blogger Amanda said...

I like to read what others have to say on a book, good or bad. Even if I read a bad review, I may still pick up the book. I get more of my TBR list ideas from bloggers than from anywhere else in the book world and that's why I decided to start my own blog. People don't necessarily have to listen to what all of us "critics" have to say, it's just a nice feeling to be able to "talk" about books with others that are interested in them. I write my reviews in the same manner in which I would talk about the book to someone...not too much of a difference in my eyes anyways. Thanks for the link, it was enlightening! :-)

At 10:58 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

"For bloggers that tell the truth even when it isn't nicey nicey? Or is that just an excuse to be rude?"

Bloggers ought to tell the truth, no question.

But the blogger ought to be doubly careful to keep how he feels about the author (the author's looks! The author's charm! The author's presence on You-tube! Or lack thereof!) out of what he thinks about the author's book.

If we're going to be good readers and worth-while critics for kiddie lit, then We need to be holding the plot, the characters, the denoument up to the light...and forgetting about the strengths and weaknesses of thos darned pesky authors...


At 11:53 AM , Blogger Mitali Perkins said...

For authors, blog mentions provide an alternative way to get stories known to potential readers. But reviews from critics who obviously care more about the book and the reader than about the author are CRUCIAL for the credibility of our stories. There is room at the table for all kinds of book chatter -- the cozy, nurturing kind and the tell-the-truth-even-if-you-sob-when-you-read-this critique. Discerning readers can soon tell the difference, and authors (it's a lonely job) need both. As a blogger, you have to decide what kind of book talk you want to offer.

At 12:27 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

"But reviews from critics who obviously care more about the book and the reader than about the author are CRUCIAL for the credibility of our stories."

Beautifully put, M.

There's a world of difference between a critic who says, "Here is a book. This is what works for the reader; this is what doesn't" (and bonus points if the critic can explain *why* something doesn't work!)

....and a critic who says: "Here is a book. It stinks. And the author is a moral reprobate who tries to fool everybody by singing in the choir and helping out with the cookies afterwards, but he doesn't fool *me*, the old sot."


At 1:49 PM , Anonymous Willow said...

"Which is to say, it's a slightly rehashed version of the eternal Should a Blogger Post Negative Reviews question that keep popping up."

Absolutely. If it saves people from reading books they don't like, go for it. And as long as the people know to take another person's opinion with a grain of salt, why not?

At 6:38 PM , Blogger Jess said...

An analogy from the "Digitise or Die" talk at the Southbank (London) lastnight. Margaret Atwood compared book reviews to gossip around the village well (I loooved her wedding dress but did you see those shoes) and lit. crit. had more biblical proportions due to the pages of text written to explain the hows and whys of a narrative....

At 4:33 AM , Blogger Mayra Calvani said...


I just spent some time leaving a comment on Roger's blog, so I'm going to paste the same comment here...

Fascinating subject! I just handed in my manuscript, The Slippery Art of Book Reviewing, to my publisher a few weeks ago, but I'm afraid I'm going to have to write about this blogging controversy and include the piece in my book...

A couple of years ago, this dilemma started with the emerging online review sites... now it's the bloggers who are being attacked. I think we're not giving enough credit to the discerning reader of reviews. It's so easy to tell a good review from a cheesy one guilty of facile praise! There are good and bad reviewers everywhere. Serious blogger reviewers usually aren't going to be stupid enough to post overly positive reviews because if the reader buys a book based on that review and then finds that book to be poorly written, that blogger will lose all credibility and that reader won't come back to this blogger for more reviews. Honesty and fairness go with our job as reviewers, without it, we're nothing but weak PR. That is not to say we should be nasty or mean... which brings me to the writing of negative reviews...
I personally think there are too many good books out there to be spending time writing about the bad ones (even negative reviews are a type of publicity!). Unless it's a book that has been written by a famous author and/or heavily hyped, I won't bother posting negative reviews on my blog and newsletters (this wouldn't be the case, however, if the book was assigned by a review site/publication, in which case I don't have a choice but to write the negative review).
Can we be totally objective when writing a review for someone we 'know' in the blogsphere? I doubt it--we're only human. What we can do is at least TRY to be as objective and honest as possible. In an ideal world, reviewers should NEVER review books by people they know. Only then can they have the total freedom required to write a perfectly honest review.

At 4:44 AM , Blogger Mayra Calvani said...

I forgot to add that there's a distinction between reader reviews and reviewer reviews.

Reader reviews are informal and don't follow a specific format, while reviewer reviews are a bit more formal (or very formal) and usually follow a certain format/structure.

Both, however, are valid forms of opinion.

You find both kinds of reviews among bloggers.

At 11:25 PM , Blogger fusenumber8 said...

Oh my. That was so ... so intelligent. I'm without words. When's that book coming out?


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