Monday, January 03, 2005

Reviews and Reviewers, Good, Bad or Indifferent

In all of the arts whether it be performance arts (acting, dancing, singing), fine arts (painting, sculpting, photography) or the written arts (novels, novellas, poetry), there is always someone out there who feels they have the skills and understanding of an artform to draw their conclusions about the value and validity of such and as the Romans once did give it a thumbs up or thumbs down.

I've always wondered what criteria is required to become a reviewer/ critic--one who single-handedly has the ability/power to elevate or crush a career or at bare minimum an ego with a stroke of a pen.

Are these reviewers/critics frustrated "artists" themselves or are they truly equipped to judge. Does it take more than "I just like to read" to be a book reviewer? Should you understand the nuances of a genre, background on a writers career and progress or lack thereof?

What are the ideas that need to be captured in a review? And is it fair to an author to get a "nice" review even when the book is a piece of crap--so that no one will be offended.

What are your thoughts on reviews and reviewers? Does it matter what they say and your willingness to purchase a book or attend a movie?


Anonymous said...

I urge writers to get reviews from reviewers with credentials not just groups of women sitting on their computer wanting free books. If you can't take that review to your agent, publisher or editor and have them be impressed with such a glowing review from this organization, then what's the point?

Anonymous said...

As a reviewer of books (and formerly music), I love what I do, probing the writer's imagination, skill, and themes so I can share those things with the readers and other writers. I've been reviewing books since the mid 1970s when I was an editor and reviewer for Encore Magazine. I have studied the art of writing and editing both in the classroom and on the job, in Columbia University and as a reporter for a New York newspaper and a book doctor for Random House. I'm a writer and a teacher and that helps.

Many reviewers are frustrated writers or editors. Others pander to the public taste, regardless of its value. Although I currently write for both black and white publishing magazines, it has never been about ego or trying to crush a career or jealousy. It's about the work of writing. It's about the wonderful themes and creative devices and other nuances that go into the work that makes it incredibly artful and lasting.

Some reviewers are not worth a grain of salt. But others are informative, enlightening, captivating, and even inspirational. Look for them. You can tell if they are writing at a high level of awareness in their reviews whether it is performance art, fine art or the written art. When a review achieves that stature, then it complements the superior qualities of that art and then you must find that book in the bookstore or that movie at the theatre. You as a consumer cannot help yourself. A good review is like a whisper by a dear friend about something she likes and also she takes time to tell you why.

Reviewing is a special art. Read them. Enjoy!

Robert Fleming

Anonymous said...

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