Scott Esposito has a very thoughtful column on book reviews. He suggests that reviewers shouldn’t be in the business of making any good/bad pronouncements at all. I think Scott hits upon part of the problem of many reviewers, in that they go in for the big kill rather than trying to understand why other critics and readers appreciate a particular author. Reviewers often fail to be doubting Thomases or sometimes neglect to cast light on a bad book’s good points (or a good book’s bad points). I would add that any good review should not just be about where one can place a book, but about a reviewer trying to commingle her subjective views with those presented by the author, ideally citing specific examples from the book (which seems a lost art these days) and without the reviewer drawing too much attention to herself. (BAD ED! THIS PARA NO MAKE SENSE! TRY TO ARTICULATE THINGS AFTER YOU HAVE SLEPT! BUT YES, SCOTT ESPOSITO’S COLUMN IS GOOOOOOOOOD!!!!!)
James Tata examines Polanski’s Rosemary’s Baby and asks if its grisly horrors are all that dissimilar from The Pianist. (ME WANT BLOODY POLANSKI MOVIE RIGHT NOW! SO SATISFYING HIS TWISTED CINEMATIC VISION!)
Esposito’s take on reviewing is fascinating. To convey one’s personal sense of a book without talking about oneself is always the challenge. In terms of wholesale attacks, it’s rare–if ever–that these are acceptable…..
Re JCO–I commented about this on my blog last night (slighly shameful plug…) I am amazed by her insensitivity–I have always thought her one of the decent folks–still do, but this was a misstep.
Barking: I don’t agree with you about JCO. Sometimes when a writer has to pursue greater truths, there is the risk of being insensitive. The notion that any writer should back down from fiction which exposes general human truths because it closely resembles the truths of a real incident would, I think, discount a good chunk of fiction.
You crack me up.