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Beyond the Blurb: On Critics and Criticism. Published by Cow Eye Press
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Critical Essays, Reviews
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Literature, Literary History, Literary Study

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04/07/2004

Comments

Trent Walters

I think reviews should be both informative and evaluative. I like that your blog transcends a simple review or providing links. You try to cut a little deeper. I often agree with you, but from a different slant. For instance, I actually want to seek out more about James Wood. I value you your opinion--much as I might Leavitt's(sp?)--but I understand it's your take and try to read between the lines to see if it might be my take.

Sarah

I agree with Trent--a review has to have a little of both. When I start to write a book review, my first thought is, and always has been, "what's my angle?" because presenting a review for the sake of it doesn't interest me. There has to be a reason--my own, or one that is of interest to the readership--that this book has been chosen for review, that there's a context for it. For example, when I reviewed Laurie Lynn Drummond's short story collection, I thought what would be of primary interest is the fact that the stories deal with subjects commonly found in crime fiction--cops and procedure--but do so in a way that is decidedly literary, and wondered what precedent there was and how Drummond handles it in her own fashion.

That being said, I'd never go so deeply into my own opinions as Leavitt seems to in her review--the point is to interest the reader, not rant about my personal preferences. I'm just a conduit, not the primary source.

Kevin Holtsberry

Great post, thought provoking and informative. I struggle with this issue as I tried to move from a avid reader to a writer. When posting a review I try to communicate what I expereinced in reading the book - what caught my attention - and what might interest the reader. I hope to communicate enough about the book to allow the reader to decide whehter to read it or not, but I also hope to say something interesting at the same time. I find it a struggle to be both informative and creative/evaluative, but if you are too far on either side you run the risk of either boring or totally subjective.

Lauren Baratz-Logsted

Great subject! I think the problem with the Leavitt review cited is that the reviewer is hubristically taking it upon herself to answer that age-old question - "What constitutes art?" - and she's doing so in a very narrow-minded and limiting way. The reviewer's job, in addition to being informative about some content and evaluative in terms of quality, should also take the time to place the book in question within its proper context. Leavitt fails to do this. She only places the book within her own context: "I don't like books that aren't touchy-feely, this book isn't touchy-feely, so even though it has great merit, ultimately it's a thumbs-down." Good reviewers need to be able to think beyond themselves. Assigning this book to Leavitt to review looks, in retrospect, as absurd as assigning a mystery to someone who tells you they don't like mysteries.

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