Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Reviews: Some random thoughts

Reviews are a part of human existence. We care what other people think about us.

We are susceptible to the opinion of others, and that makes us uniquely human. So many things make us unique -- we are hairless, fragile, weak, uncoordinated mammals, and have only a rudimentary sense of smell that leaves us the laughing stock of all our mammalian brothers and sisters -- but more importantly, we excel in our ability to criticize, compliment, judge, and study everything around us.

We revel in our ability to analyze. There is the crux of it. We call it reason, and we flex our mental muscles against the strength of the lion, and inflate our genius until it crushes the bluest whale beneath its weight.

We are human! We are stronger, larger, and more brilliant than any living force on this or any planet in the galaxy! We are intelligent life, and none may be found elsewhere in all the universe! We are thus because we think!

I think. Therefore, I am.

We say this as a virus eats us, and if it could laugh, it would, but its mouth is far too full to smile.

Part of our brilliance is the ability to review not only God's creations, but our own. Such a pretty cloud, we say, when we feel like complimenting God. Or, if we are in a sour mood, we curse and say, Sky looks ugly today. Better not rain on the most intelligent and beautiful of all God's creations.

A dog never thinks that. A dog simply looks up, says, How 'bout that, and goes back to sniffing the world as we will never smell.

Which brings me, somehow, to the book review. Extrapolate this to any sort of review, but I will limit this to a book review.

Specifically, I will ponderize the negative book review, and the patronizingly positive review.

I will start first with the second, the patronizingly positive review, or PPR, as I shall now refer to it.

The PPR is this: it is flattery.

Not that we all don't enjoy flattery. You look fine in that dress, and size doesn't matter.

We all need that sort of PPR from time to time, as writers, as workers, as lovers and parents and children. Sometimes all it takes is someone saying, Good job, even when you know it wasn't. Sometimes, that little bump in your spirit will translate into a more beautifuller work down the road.

Good job becomes not a flattering compliment, but a goal.

Now you want to live up to that expectation. So you try harder.

There are negative points to the PPR, but I will not indulge in a negative review here.

Which brings me to the negative review.

Negative reviews make no sense to me. They are jib-jab thoughts aimed at the jaw of someone who did something they could not. Rarely do we see experts throw out negative criticism of their peers.

Why is it that giants in the field of writing do not crush new and inferior writers? It is simple, really. It is because they see no value in the negative criticism.

Superstars in any field get to top by ignoring the negative critics, laughing at the hecklers, and showing up when everyone says they should quit and go home.

I do not mean that constructive criticism is ignored. I mean that negative criticism is ignored. It has no value.

It also makes no sense, in a logical, Vulcan-Spock sort of way. Why would a person read a book they hate, and then feel compelled to write about it?

Books I hate get tossed half-read, if that much, often with a partial skim to make sure that yep, that book should have a white stripe down its back, as a warning to others.

True, I hate that book, but the next reader may think it's the best thing since the Missionary Position.

Anyway, there are my random thoughts on the book review, and reviews in general. I've been getting reviews on my current book, Out of the Great Black Nothing, and am looking forward to visiting Donna Hole next week for a formal review from one of my peers. I haven't sought out reviews, mainly because I am apoplectically shy about discussing my book.

My friends and co-workers are always asking me about my books and what I write. I answer quietly, quickly, and deflect the subject away from me, a technique I now shall demonstrate...

Any random thoughts on reviews, critics, or discussing your work? Do you believe as I do that negative reviews are inherently illogical?

- Eric

Eric W. Trant is a published author of several short stories and the novel Out of the Great Black Nothing. He is currently represented by Debrin Case at Open Heart Publishing. See more of Eric's work here: Publications


Unknown said...

I think all reviews are influenced by the person's likes and dislikes that have been accumulated subconsciously during their lifetime.

L. Diane Wolfe said...

There are negative reviews where the person explains what he or she didn't like about the book while mixing what he or she did like and a disclaimer that others may enjoy it. Then there are reviews where the person hated it and the best he or she could come up with boils down to "This book sucked!" Those are worthless. Besides, who goes to the trouble of reading a book that is awful? And if it was so bad it couldn't be finished, then don't review it, because you didn't read all of it.

Anne Gallagher said...

Why would a person read a book they hate, and then feel compelled to write about it?

Oh I wish I knew. One reviewer of mine wrote such stupidness, even comparing me to a famous romance author, in that I didn't write like her. Of course, I don't write like her, I'm not her. I'm me.

I think serial bad reviewers are just people who wish they could write but know they can't so have to put everyone else down who does.

Roland D. Yeomans said...

John Locke says a negative review only tells him that particular person isn't a member of his target audience. That must be a comforting outlook, right?

Phoenix said...

I think bad reviews and constructive reviews can be two different things. I always want to know how to make something better if I get a bad review.

I get what you're saying about reviewers reviewing books they hate. I'd be inclined to agree, except they're so damn funny to read sometimes.

On that note, I wish Twilight had received more bad reviews.