Friday, June 12, 2009

Hey, book bloggers?

So, I reviewed Tempo Change by Barbara yesterday, right? I decided to put this quote from the book in a separate post because I thought it might just inspire some interesting discussion, and it'd be best not to let said discussion and review commentary mingle.

Here goes:

Then, before my dad made his entrance onto the stage, Meg came out and made a big deal about him. She announced half his credits and called him the Vanguard of Poetic Punk, or something equally disturbing, and it suddenly occurred to me that I used to say things like that. Back when I was a critic. Back when I was somebody who just talked about other people's works in a sassy way, trying to invent new phrases and make it all sound so important. That was before I knew what it was like to try to put the whole thing together and actually perform for people and get something across to them. (Page 206)

Thoughts? From anyone, authors and book bloggers alike.


Unknown said...

I think she's trying to underscore the merits of criticism, which though it's not the most important thing in the world, it can be pretty helpful. Even if you read a criticism or review of something and disagree with it, it can still be interesting to see a different side of it or look at it from a perspective you hadn't considered. As for "inventing new phrases to make it sound important", I don't think any book bloggers fancy themselves the new Diablo Cody or anything similarly ridiculous. Being a critic or a reviewer doesn't necessarily mean that you think you're better than anyone or you're trying to invent a new lingo. You just have an opinion to share and there's nothing wrong with that.

Unknown said...

I don't have anything intelligent to say--just that that comment made me smirk. I think she's right--in some cases. Some critics just speak to speak without really adding depth. This doesn't apply to everyone--but definitely to some.

Anonymous said...

I'll take a stab....

Creating something (book, music, whatever) is lonely and hard work filled with long days where you are elated one minute and desperate the next, as you try to get a clear picture of what you actually are or aren't accomplishing.

For critics or fans to gush or skewer you or the work almost seems inappropriate. You've already alternately skewered and praised yourself just to be able to finish the book (or whatever). After that, nothing anyone else could say matters much. Their words -- snarky or gushing -- are white noise.

Also, let's face it, most reviewers just like to hear themselves talk because generally in life people think they are more important than they are. Hence, GoodReads reviews. :)

moonrat said...

ooooo!! good pull quote!!

i've OFTEN had thoughts like this about book blogging--i used to try to simulate "book reviews" (ie the ones that appear in newspapers) as much as possible to come across as "serious," but then i realized i, personally, am much more interested in candid reactions than showy, overblown prose by the reviewer, and have basically turned to very casual reviews.

sad that the "criticism" scene can be so fake/unrelatable.

Amee said...

I agree with the quote. It makes me roll my eyes when I read reviews with flowery phrases or witty lines. It makes me think the reviewer (whether book blogger or professional) is simply either trying way too hard or are terribly pretentious. I also see it happening more often with book bloggers now that quotes from them are popping up on books. It seems like the possibility to be quoted is suddenly something to attain now. As a result, there seem to be more adjective filled final sentences and such that scream (to me), "quote me!"

This isn't what I think the quote is talking about but while we're on the subject, the one thing that bothers me more than the flowery phrases in reviews are when SAT words are used. I don't like it when it feels like a thesaurus was used when writing the reviews.

Amie Stuart said...

I have nothing worthwhile to add LOL From the phrase itself it sounds like maybe the narrator just had a wake up call (or not). Otherwise, what Anonymous and Moonrat said.

And Amee I tend to skim long-ass reviews. They annoy me. Get to the point already ;-)

Amee said...

Same here, Amie! Lol, confession time: I always skip the summarie and skim till I get to the review portion of the review! :P

trish said...

See, here's what I don't understand: Anonymous says, "For critics or fans to gush or skewer you or the work almost seems inappropriate. You've already alternately skewered and praised yourself just to be able to finish the book (or whatever). After that, nothing anyone else could say matters much. Their words -- snarky or gushing -- are white noise."

So what do authors want? Do they want the readers to shut up and not say anything at all? Would they rather that readers be ho hum about books, because frankly, I'd rather somone hate me rather than be lukewarm towards me.

Also, the quote says, "That was before I knew what it was like to try to put the whole thing together and actually perform for people and get something across to them." So are we not allowed to judge? Humans have the capacity to judge whether something is good, bad, or mediocre, and while that's just someone's *opinion*, there's nothing wrong with judging!

Unknown said...

Who is trying to be more self-important? The reviewer with her sassy words or the author with her supposedly more creative getting "something across" ?

And while reviewers, particularly reviewers who self-publish their reviews on blogs or other sites, obviously like to "hear themselves talk" (analagously, as this isn't talking but writing), I'd like to know how that is so different than an author getting their book published. What's so effing wrong with thinking you have something to say?

As someone wrote in a blog post about the 1st/2nd wave book blogger tiff, "I'm tired of this conversation." Authors like to tear down reviewers just as much as reviewers like to tear down authors. Sadly, reviewers (including myself) feel the need to justify themselves as if they are capitalist middlemen seeking to justify their existence against socialist attacks of being sucklers at the teat of worker labor.

To the authors... reviewers don't owe you anything except what they want to owe you. Nothing. Zilch. Nada. Nothing. Authors owe reviewers/readers nothing beyond what a desire to sell more books implies. If they want to carp about and take shots at reviwers and their motivations, more power to em. But it makes em look whiny and petulant and small-minded when they do, and it makes me less inclined to bother to take what they have to say seriously.

The Book Resort said...

I think most people want to make a difference anyway they can. If it is to make someone purchase whatever goods they are "promoting" or to make people steer clear b/c of "snarky criticism" they will do their best to pull out their cheerleader megaphones & blow... hot air or witty, infectious commentary. we need to just take everything w/ a grain of salt.

Reviews are helpful but not enough to base one's entire life on. Afterall, reviews are subjective to the reviewer's interpretation of the book ~ or whatever work ~ they are critiquing.

If you are a writer/musician/artist it is about your PASSION ~ for you to express yourself through YOUR creative process. If you are doing it to receive praise & awards than clearly you are in it for the WRONG reasons. If you're not going to sweat your cheeks to do what makes your soul sing... flip burgers instead.

Bottom line, a review is all about expressing ones' own understanding of things.

As for Anonymous, "Their words -- snarky or gushing -- are white noise." is bull! If it was all about white noise the comment wouldn't be "anonymous". Reviews aren't the be all/end all but they do make people sit up & take notice. If it is all "white noise" does that mean your audience base is as well? No wonder you remained anonymous... you don't want a backlash from book buyers & future book buyers.
It is MY choice what books I buy. I have a mind of my own. I may not jump to read the book because it gelled w/ my original thought, but I may just read the first 25 pp to see whether or not I like it. Usually, if the author has a bad attitude that is reason enough for me to not waste my $$$ or time. The book could be a bestseller & receive glowing reviews, but the attitude of the author is what does it for me.

A review is also reflective of the reviewer's mood. If I'm in a foul mood, I do my best not to read a review book because the author deserves better than that.

Great post, Steph! Thanks.

Kathleen McCleary said...

As an author, I love hearing what readers and reviewers have to say, good and bad. It's unbelievably gratifying after the long, lonely, hard days spent writing, to have other people get to know the characters and events I've spent years wrestling with, and to respond to them. Of course I love the praise, but even the bad reviews are (for the most part) worthwhile. Several people really hated the protagonist in my novel, which at least meant they weren't bored, and that the character was real enough to them for them to have strong emotion about her. Also, I learn things that have helped me do a better job on my current work-in-progress.
And I love gushing. Gushing is great. Gush away! It's not white noise to me!

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