Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Unjustified Enthusiasm

What makes this bellyaching (about bad reviews) so unseemly is that the vast majority of book reviews are favorable, even though the vast majority of books deserve little praise. Authors know that even if one reviewer hates a book, the next 10 will roll over like pooches and insist it’s not only incandescent but luminous, too. Reviewers tend to err on the side of caution, fearing reprisals down the road. Also, because they generally receive but a pittance for their efforts, they tend to view these assignments as a chore and write reviews that read like term papers or reworded press releases churned out by auxiliary sales reps. This is particularly true in the mystery genre, where the last negative review was written in 1943.
Joe Queenan warns about the dangers of over-praising authors in the New York Times.

5 comments:

Amir said...

I love Joe Queenan!

Especially 'If You're Talking to Me, Your Career Must be in Trouble" (1994) and "The Unkindest Cut" (1997). Many of his books after that were, in fact, lame.

This essay makes it seem like he's back in the saddle.

bibliobibuli said...

he has a memoir coming out in april

Alice Teh said...

Hi Sharon, when I don't have a good thing to say about the book, I usually just don't write a review. I'd rather not say anything about it although I think it's better if I did.

Greenbottle said...

"...But such reviews are unfair to the reader, who may be horn­swoggled into thinking..."

my english isn't too good (my third language you know) but i have a feeling that readers here have been hornswoggled (whatever than means) a fair bit by local reviewers...

bibliobibuli said...

alice - that's true of me too. i've wimped out of a lot of reviews like that, but it doesn't make me feel good. basically though i tend to think life is way too short to read books you don't care for and spend time reviewing and since review space is so limited in the press anyway, you might as well spend the time on books you care about. i don't think i'm the only reviewer who feels this way.

greenbottle - isn't hornswoggled such a great word? i will try to slip it into my vocabulary ...