Reviewing the Sabotage

June 29, 2012 § Leave a comment

I had a terrible time of it last night. I sat down to finish my review of Don Rearden’s debut novel, The Raven’s Gift only to have an attack of the writer’s equivelant of stage fright.

It wasn’t writer’s block per se. The well hadn’t run dry. I just couldn’t find the words to say what I wanted to say, which led to me going back and attacking the little I had written. Essentially, what I was doing was editing before I’d done any writing. I was sabotaging myself.

Many published writers say it; you will write a lot of crap before producing something worthwhile. Years of crap. Not every piece can be a work of art. I know this and yet I still put crippling pressure on myself to write well. Of course, there are added pressures when it comes to reviewing because that is about so much more than the self, it is about doing a service. A service to the work being reviewed, its creator, its prospective audience and then to yourself as the reviewer and staying true to your opinion.

When I experience lulls in my book review writing flow, I’ll often hop online and check out what other people have written. Bad idea. You know where this comes from, right? My compulsion to see what others are saying? I’m not confident enough in my own assertions. The fact that I’ve been reading novels non-stop since I learnt how isn’t a good enough justification for my response to a work; I need other people to back me up. I need to know that other people reacted the way I did. Other people who? Those who leave paragraph-long reviews on Amazon, which are mostly synopsis? If my own review reflects the general consensus then I’m appealing to the book’s readers or something. But what if I’ve completely missed the point of the book? Overlooked a central theme? These other reviews can help me fill the spaces in my own. Wait, what? This sounds crazy to you too, right?

I think as a reviewer it becomes easy to exaggerate your own importance. If someone doesn’t like my review or doesn’t agree with it, they’ll just go and read another until they come across one that aligns with their own views or tells them what they want to hear. Want to read Fifty Shades of Grey? There’s a review out there that will justify you doing that.

Into the narrative, the author successfully weaves Ana’s voice of reason (her subconscious) and her voice of desire (her “inner goddess”), which accurately reflect the seesaw of emotions that a woman might actually experience in her situation.
(Review from The Unexpected Twists and Turns)*

See? The characters are realistic. Although why anyone would read a book that describes a woman’s voice of desire as her “inner goddess” other than for a laugh I will never understand. I don’t think I even understand what a voice of desire might be referring to. Lust? Are they talking about lust? It all sounds very trashy and wishy-washy to me. Of course, there is an appeal in that, but this post isn’t about Fifty Shades.

My point still stands, reviews don’t make all the difference. People are still going to do what they want to do. Thus, it doesn’t matter if I don’t agree with the majority of people out there as long as I have an argument that is backed up by the text. Now, just to implement that next time.

* Please note: I, in no way deny the validity of the quoted excerpt pertaining toFifty Shades of Grey. I have not read the novel by E L James so cannot make my own assessment.The quote merely functions as an illustration of my point that reviews are varied and one can be found to justify any view.


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