BookChase is one of my very favorite literary/book review blogs; it’s proprietor, a fella named Sam, writes rather extraordinary, particularly cogent reviews about the books he reads. Just the other day, Sam linked to this Washington Post article concerning Chris Bohjalian and his feelings concerning reviews of his books, specifically on Amazon.com.
Sam uses the article as an opportunity to offer some thoughts on his own amateur status as a book reviewer:
I do sincerely try to be fair in every review that I write and I don’t make a habit of taking cheap shots, although I imagine it’s happened more times than I realize or intended. In fact, I’ve had some nice comments from some of the authors I’ve most criticized saying that they appreciate honest reviews and can see the point I was making – and then they usually tell me why they think I am wrong. Fair enough, that, and I very much appreciate their willingness to discuss their work with someone as anonymous as me.
It’s a difficult dilemma, I think. Especially concerning the Internet and the basically egalitarian voice it gives everyone. Over here, at MightyGodKing.com, one commenter noted:
I bet if you too a brief census of the artists who heard any commentary about their work while at SDCC, approximately 100% would say that on at least more than one occasion, someone took a proverbial “shit in their cornflakes” while expressing their opinions about something. Unfortunately, some people use “criticism” or “just being honest” as an excuse to be an asswipe. In that respect, if you’re going to be an artist and your going to put your stuff out there for scrutiny, best for all parties involved that you develop a healthy tolerance for all such people.
My response there was:
The Internet seems to have created more critics than academia, and most are worse if only because they generally have trouble both having a cogent thought and spelling it correctly. That said, I don’t see why wanting to share one’s work with other people includes the necessity for developing a healthy tolerance for asswipes. Fuck asswipes.
A sentiment Bookchase’s post refreshed.
I mentioned before I’m still learning how (if at all) to respond to reactions to Entrekin; there have been a couple of reactions, anonymous and otherwise, that I’ve seen and which made me want to say: “Wait, who are you? What, exactly, have you ever done?” I mean, there’s subjective stuff like someone didn’t like it, and I get that. But people who bash my grammar/style just make me want to say, “Look, I was a professional editor and have a Master’s degree in Professional Writing. I tend to not simply know grammar better than most textbooks but also understand its fluid nature.”
This isn’t to say I believe in grammatical anarchy, mind you. I generally reference Shakespeare as someone who played with language and grammar, but of course he knew what he was doing beforehand, which is the big requirement. You can bend or break the rules all you’d like, but to do so, you must know the rules you’re breaking, why they’re rules, and why you’re breaking them.
The reason I bring this up now is that I’m starting to wonder about “amateur” reviewers, if mainly because all the professional venues are pretty much going the way of the dodo. Newspapers left and right are decreasing their coverage of books, and well they should, but really I’m surprised they exist in the first place, anymore. I can’t even remember the last time I actually touched a newspaper, and most of the magazines I read anymore are available in full online. Why buy Rolling Stone when I can read all the stories via the Internet?
And if so much reading is occurring online anyway, why go to those publications? One of the biggest revolutions the Internet has brought on is the removal of middlemen between creators and consumers of content. I don’t yet think this works for novels, which is why I’m not yet considering Lulu to self-publish my own, but most publications have Internet presences, anyway. I’ve been working on some short stories lately, and my thought is, when I finish them, I can either submit them for publication and rely on someone else who may or may not be as qualified as I am to edit, or I can just post them here (or in et cetera). Some people think that publishing in big ole’ publications confers some sort of authority, but I’m more of the mind that quality of content, and not method of distribution, should confer authority.
Which means I’m of the mind that yes, everyone has a voice, but very few actually deserve to be listened to.