Friday, February 10, 2006

The Role of the Reviewer

I don't think that a writing community can really grow strong without the feedback reviews provide, and I feel that too few books get reviewed here in Malaysia where the newspapers give very little space to them. Books by local writers continually slip through the net, and the public don't even get to hear about most of the titles from overseas that they might be interested in. (The bookshops fight their own corners, but still ...)

Local fantasy writer and environmentalist Glenda Larke (whom I wrote about some time back) talks about the role of the reviewer, and her own feelings about being reviewed:
... a good review should do one major thing: it should give a reader who hasn’t read the work an idea whether he would like it or not (or alternatively give a reader who has read it something more to think about).

It is not enough to retell the story, obviously. And it is certainly not enough to criticise the work – favourably or otherwise – without saying, coherently, why. There are three kinds of reviews which particularly bug me: the one that is dismissive from the start, e.g. the snide reviewer given a science fiction book to review by a newspaper editor when he loathes the genre, and who then has fun ridiculing it for being science fiction; secondly, the reviewer who attacks the author rather than the work, e.g. on his or her politics; and thirdly the reviewer who slams (or praises) a work but never gives a thoughtful reason.

As an author, I look upon all reviews as a chance for me to learn. What worked, at least as far as this particular reviewer is concerned? What didn’t? And why? If the reviewer can tell me any of that, I am pathetically grateful.
I'm usually on the other side of the equation, reviewing writers. Just hope I get it right.


aneeta said...

If the reviewer can tell me any of that, I am pathetically grateful.

I would like to add, "If the reviewer can tell me any of that, without injecting malice into his/her words, I am pathetically grateful."

Yvonne Foong said...

I think a good reviewer has to have sound knowledge in literature, so he/she will be able to review books objectively, and not just say whether a book is good or not good.

Hey Sharon, you've got a new book to review soon. *grin*

The Visitor said...

i've reviewed books, plays, movies, music, etc, and i can tell you that if you inject stupidity into your work, i will inject malice into my review, as a "thank you" for wasting my time.

bibliobibuli said...

just make it fair malice, visitor

eyeris said...

if i liked it, i give good review. end of story. if i don't like it, be prepared for a lot of subtle sarcasm... :D:D