Yet again, the question of credibility rears it’s cranky head – credibility for online book reviews, the idea that the buying & reading public would wish to have their opinion known. Egad!
Seems John Sutherland is shocked and appalled by the state of book reviewing on the web and has pitched a little fit. He sees independent bloggery and the reviewers therein as “degradation of literary taste.”
Then British novelist Susan Hill was banned from the Guardian’s book review section for daring to defending online reviewers. She received a letter from a literary editor stating that due to her position, her books will never be reviewed in that paper. Meow!
But soft! Rachel Cooke jumped into the whole kerfuffle and blasted Hill for her defense, and threw her own opinion into the fray.
So when lurker Becca forwarded me a synopsis of the whole mess, I sat up and emailed Candy, because damn, bitch smacking the Smart Bitches who review online on a blog?!? Oh, no, you didn’t.
Sarah: Did you see this?! WOW. I have no idea who wrote the email that Becca forwarded, and since it’s from a list serv, I’m not sure we can get permission to reprint the commentary, but whoa, nelly.
I get hating the Amz reviewers. Your best friend and your dog walker can give your crapass book four stars (e.g. Charlie Valentine’s baby sculpture horror-fest) and there’s no vetting of the quality of the reviews or the source. And Harriet Klausner sucks. (And for the record, I don’t think she exists.)
But to say that all online book reviewers suck? I don’t suck! You don’t suck! And I don’t think our site would have the readership that it does if our reviews sucked. Authors whose books we’ve been critical of said they were grateful for the analysis because, if you ask me, we do it right.
I haven’t seen this yet, no. We should just post the links, perhaps, and have the Bitchery flail at it? I haven’t read the links myself—OMG HUGE PROJECT DUE AT END OF WEEK, but I’ll sneak peeks at it whenever I can.
Sutherland, alas, is not the first nor the last to attack and make truly stupid generalizations about on-line reviewers. Remember that rant I wrote ages ago about Paperback Writer? Except she basically called ALL reviewers, on-line and not, hacks and traitors to the cause.
Sarah: There’s always going to be the question of who has the credibility to critique, but my feeling is, at heart romance is popular entertainment, so the folks that read it and pay for it have the right to say whatever they want. What are the qualifications for writing romance critique or review? Man titty and crinoline? A love of heroes named Lucien and Daemon? …the hell?
So how do we get qualified, anyway?
Candy: And therein lies the rub, doesn’t it? Everybody’s a critic. Personally, I don’t think anyone needs qualifications in order to be able to provide a critique, though certainly having a grasp of certain analytical techniques is useful. But if you’re reasonably bright, you can usually suss out the basic principles of storytelling and what appeals to you vs. what doesn’t, and articulate what parts of a story worked and which didn’t in a coherent, entertaining manner.
In fact, I’ll say that I like having this free-for-all, because it’s usually quite easy to tell who’s full of shit and who isn’t. Harriet Klausner set off my full-of-shit-o-meter after I read a few of her reviews, for example. And reviewers at places like AAR didn’t set off my FOS-o-meter, even when I didn’t agree with what they said.
Sarah: Yeah, that’s what bugs me about these people bitching about bad reviewers. It’s like people who bitch about bad tv shows – if you don’t like it, don’t watch it. Equally, if you think that a reviewer is full of shit, then don’t read them. Why should there be some universal bar of reviewers where we have to pass a test to prove we’re not full of crap? Please. There are so many other more appropriate uses of such a potential universal power!
Harriet also set off, as you call it, my FOS-meter, since she doesn’t actually REVIEW the book but tells you what happened. Boh-Ring and disingenuous, Harriet, dear.
And the irony for me is that we didn’t LIKE that everyone was a gushing fan of romance pretending to be a critic, and that the incisive reviews of what works in romance were few and far between, and sometimes hard to find! Everyone in the romance review world isn’t a critic; some of the time you’re getting arse-licking endorsements of dreck and, as we said, it is high time someone said, “Yo, this sucks. Change it,” when confronted with savage crapulence!
Candy: The problem with Harriet is that she sometimes doesn’t even get the summaries right. I mean, seriously.
Also, regarding Sutherland’s accusation that we started this for the freebies: Bitch, please. Nothing less than complete world domination will do. Also, the two of us would’ve been perfectly happy to have continued our enterprise without receiving the freebies—in fact, I was downright boggled when people wanted to send us books to review. I still am.
Sarah: Yes – sometimes I wonder what the hell she’s talking about when I read her review of a book I’ve already read. And I feel the same boggled-ness about the freebies. I’d be doing this even if people didn’t send me books.
But it’s a good step on the way to world domination. Next: free cable and internet. And worldwide power for online book reviewers.