Yeah, it’s been a while since i posted, and there has erupted kerfuffle that inspired this one. ::shrug:: I am sheep, hear me bleat.
So, here’s the deal on reviews. A bunch of people are getting their knickers in a twist over bad reviews, what they call bad reviewers, etc. etc. A lot of them are saying that reviews/reviewers are breaking The Rules, that they’re not objective.
‘kay, so…um. Here’s the thing. I don’t think reviews should be objective. I don’t think that they CAN be. We all bring our own stuff to a review. Our own likes and dislikes, our own points of view on things. One of “the rules” according to one person is that you should never mention grammar or spelling errors. But…why?! I’m a writer – I can’t read books with atrocious grammar or bad spelling. That doesn’t mean that other people can’t ignore that shit; they can and do.
Some of my favorite people have recommended to me some books that I just. couldn’t. stand. Why? Because I could see through the story to the editor beyond. “Hey, readers won’t like it if this character does this for no good reason…fix that!”. Or shaky point-of-view shit, or just…any other thing that comes from having sent my own books through CPs and editors a few times, and a freelance editing gig a few years back. My perspective is that of someone who works ‘behind-the-scenes’. My friend can’t stand cop/lawyer shows because they’re so NOT the way it works in real life. Me? Toss a dead body on the TV screen and I’m hooked. Every time. No matter how bad the show is. ::sheepish:: But I love talking to her about them because she gets all Southern-ranty telling me how it don’t work like that, and I can assure her that I know that, but I just love watching the mystery unfold.
So here’s the deal. Who’s a review for? The reviewer. It’s their reaction to a book, based on where they are in their life, based on how they’re feeling, what they had for lunch, and whether they’ve slept in the last week. Sometimes, you’ll find a reviewer whose taste in books align with yours and you can trade book recommendations one to another. Sometimes, I find a reviewer I disagree with and read their reviews. I like reading really feminist readings of books, because my brain isn’t, yet, trained to realize the insidiousness of misogyny in a lot of the books I read. I very often find myself sheepishly reading those reviews and thinking “but..I liked that book…”
And, one last thing, it’s often said that writers shouldn’t review. Because while we might not think what we’ve said was all that damning, an author might take it badly and never want to work with us again. Might badmouth us. Or it might be seen as malicious. And as authors, our ‘word’ might mean more, might seem to hold more credulity than any other reviewer. I find this the saddest thing, pretty much ever, since I love to talk about books and deconstruct books and analyze them and think on them and disagree with people on them and there’s one book that I’d love to write the longest, most ranting letter ever about because it made me so mad and I’d really like to talk to people who’ve read the book to see if it made THEM mad, too…but I respect the advice I’ve been given and I don’t review books.
Instead, I trolled the Ranty Book’s Goodread reviews and discovered…other people were pissed at it, too. They even managed to articulate why, when, at the time, I was just ready to take the book and hang it from the ceiling fan, light it on fire, and watch it fly. But they were allowed to talk about it in a community of readers, and I have to admit I’m jealous of that.