Tuesday, May 31, 2011
Pragmatism, Honesty, or Back-Scratching
For a long time now I have been thinking of the idea of publicly sharing opinions on books and have even drafted a number of posts on the subject. But I have never felt as if I have arrived at any kind of a well-defined stance. Domey's post at the Lit Lab the other day made me think about it again, and instead of trying to come up with a solution before writing a post, I have decided to explore the subject here. In writing about it, I hope I can clarify my thinking further and hopefully I can get a conversation going on the subject.
Writers writing public reviews: what are our responsibilities? What is our role? Which considerations matter?
A little while back, there was the loud but thankfully short fury in response to a supposed YA mafia whose members provide glowing reviews for one another and black ball those who dared to say they didn't like certain books. Many writers chimed in to share their decisions with regards to writing negative reviews. Some writers choose not to post negative reviews for fear of creating bad karma for their own work. Others do so because they don't want to hurt the feelings of the authors, Yet others feel that honesty is the best policy and do not shy away from negative comments.
I understand the fear of having my own work being panned because of revenge, and obviously I am aware that behind every work is a person who loves their work.Yet praising something I don't like is not an option either.
My solution so far has been to review mainly books I liked. If I did choose to mention what didn't work, I made sure I provided specific examples to back up my points. Occasionally, I would discuss what I don't like about a book without mentioning its title.
This seemed like a safe thing to do.
But I am not contented with safe anymore. Domey is right; being only nice and quiet all the time isn't a good thing to do. Maybe I have been cowardly. Maybe my basic motivation has been fear.
So. Providing honest, objective reviews that are helpful to readers, without being nasty, without external agendas: surely that is an achievable goal?
And since the reviewer role is now shared by so many grass-roots reviewers, one review isn't going to have as much an effect. My hope is that I can provide helpful reviews to my readers and fair to the authors.
Keep me honest, won't you?