Sunday, September 12, 2004
Some people out there might know that for the last 20 years or so I've been reviewing books for a variety of places, but mainly for Starburst and Shivers magazines. It's a strange life being a reviewer, you get to pen about 100-300 words on something which might have taken years of someone's life to create, and in those words you can destroy it completely. To be honest I often think that some reviewers take great pleasure in doing just that, and that they are unbearably smug with it (and I know that some magazines actually ask their reviewers to submit bad reviews and actively give books to people they hope won't like them). Me, I try and find something nice to say if I can, and if I really can't find anything nice then I'll probably not cover that book. Why spend space saying that something is awful when you could be helping to spread the word about something that is good. It's also worth noting that as with any other sort of writing, sometimes you get things wrong in a review: you spell a name incorrectly, or get some other detail wrong, and of course then the author comes down on you like a ton of bricks, especially if you're daring to criticise their masterpiece. I mention all this as I had an email today from an author, basically having a right old go at me for a recent review of his book ... seems that because I had not praised it to the skies like others apparently had, and because I callously (and unprofessionally of course) gave away the ending of one of the short stories, and because I couldn't tell from the book whether it was self-published or not, and because I dared to have an opinion as to the type of story I like ... it all amused me more than anything. As if being accused of not knowing what I was doing, of getting more experience before I reviewed short stories, and being described as 'simple minded' is really going to endear me to this author and his work in the future. I'd like to share with you his closing line: "In short, this inaccurate, incomplete, superficial treatment of a very strong story collection is an injustice. This book is receiving rave reviews, often five star reviews, in longer, more comprehensive treatments by other reviewers. Your review, as written, is amateurish drek." Thank you and goodnight. I think that every writer would benefit from being a reviewer, to try and exercise tact and diplomacy when discussing works which they then may appreciate the effort that went into creating. And that every reviewer should have a piece of their work that they're proud of reviewed by someone else at some point, so that they can see how it feels to be on the receiving end of criticism. Maybe if this happened, then people would be perhaps a little more tolerant of criticism, and perhaps not be so keen to slag off and put down works based on their own agendas.