Monday, March 26, 2007

Notes on Reviewing

Taken from urban-drift forum, compiled by jonathan and gabe:

  1. No reviews mainly concerned with summarising the plot.
  2. No going easy on books we don't like.
  3. No treating authors as though we were criticising friends.
  4. No "it's good if you like this kind of thing" relativism. Rape is "good if you like this kind of thing"... that kind of relativism makes for meaningless reviews.
  5. Try to stay outside of your comfort zone with what you write about. Don't always pick books by authors you know and like. Don't always go for genres you like.
  6. Always engage with what you've read and all forms of engagement are good. You can want to pick something apart structurally, talk about the meaning, openly mock it or argue with its politics but for fuck's sake take a position and write it.
  7. Publish and be damned.
  8. The review should be at least as entertaining as the work in review; there is nothing wrong with reviewers having style.
  9. The reviewer should be able to use and reflect critical standards without relying upon jargon. You want to take a post-structuralist view of a book? Fine. But use the review to illustrate that position, rather than falling back on academic shorthand.
  10. Never talk down to the reader; assume the readers are smarter than we are.
  11. The quality of a book can not be related by any kind of scale. If you have to use a scale of any kind, you're being a lazy reviewer.
  12. State your prejudices.
  13. Use as many words as necessary to state what you need to state about the work in question, and word counts be damned.
  14. Always remember the review is ABOUT THE BOOK, not about you as a reviewer.

Or as someone said in the said forum, "Be bold."


skinnyblackcladdink said...

this sounds like a response to the review Jeff VanderMeer railed against on his blog...(it was by some guy named Rafferty at NYT, on Dan Simmons' The Terror)

MulderandScully said...

great tips! I for one am fed up with reviews that end with "...still, if you like this sort of thing, you'd enjoy this."

banzai cat said...

skinny: yep, that was also brought up in the forums. You should try dropping by, signing up even. It's an interesting place and their talk on criticism and review is right up your alley.

mulder: Hey, welcome aboard. Yeah, it's an interesting set of guidelines to follow. At least definitely make the review an interesting read.

Cyberpunk said...

pretty nice list...thanks for posting...