Saturday, May 21, 2011

What’s That Smell? Crapiola.

According to Jane Ciabattan and the reviewers she moderated on a panel, those of us who do reviews on our blogs or on book sites are not real reviewers. According to the post, we only review books that are uplifting and have likeable characters. Cynthia Ozick, who won a National Book Critics Circle award in criticism, calls us “Amazon customer reviewers.” (I have a vision of her holding his nose as she said that.)

Danish novelist and former critic Jensen said:
I was once asked about the most devastating review I ever received," Jensen said. “My answer was that it had never been written because the only person who could write it was me. I know myself, my writing, and my weaknesses better than anyone.
Cynthia Ozick wrote:
In my own getting-the-ketchup-to-come-out-of-the-bottle case, I won't go on to the next sentence until the last sentence is as watertight as I can make it. And this means how it is joined to the sentence before and the sentence to come. The term 'laborious' applies!
Her conclusion is that she is her own harshest critic because she’s the slowest writer.

Morris Dickstein, distinguished professor of English and theater at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York and author, said:
“The professional reviewer, who has a literary identity, who had to meet some editor's exacting standard, has effectively been replaced by the Amazon reviewer, the paying customer, at times ingenious, assiduous, and highly motivated, more often banal, obtuse, and blankly opinionated."
Frankly, I’ll believe the opinion of the latter rather than those who have a literary pedigree and smell.

31 comments:

  1. Maybe bloggers are more like "Amazon customer reviewers," but their taste in books is more like mine, so I trust them more. I'm not always looking for symbolism and deep meaning in what I read - I just want to be entertained and spurred to think.

    ReplyDelete
  2. I second what bermudaonion has to say.

    ReplyDelete
  3. The Amazon reviewers--well, that's a mixed bag. Some of them give 1 star because the book shipped late from Amazon.

    But book bloggers? I take their opinion over print reviewers *any* day. Not only do they typically read a lot more (i.e. are more experienced readers) than print reviewers, but they're closer to the pulse of an ordinary reader than print reviewers. If I want to find out if a particular genre book is good, I'm searching the book blogging sites--these books won't get a mention in most print sources.

    ReplyDelete
  4. I agree with everyone above. I got to Amazon reviews (and the like) to look at all kinds of product reviews because I feel these are regular people with similar tastes and sensibilities.

    ReplyDelete
  5. There's so much blatant snobbery in every aspect of the publishing industry that la di freakin' da comments like this don't surprise me at all.

    ReplyDelete
  6. I use Goodreads and Amazon. The only place I tend to trust less are blogs because these are often tours set up with blogging buddies, and nobody wants to hurt feelings. But blogs are a perfect place to find out about books. I'll do my homework from there.

    Yeah, this pedigree stuff has got to stop. I've got two eyes and a brain. I can read. I've got an opinion - an informed one. And yeah, I can share it.

    ReplyDelete
  7. Everybody above has stated my thoughts exactly...and KarenG took the words right out of my mouth.

    ReplyDelete
  8. Reminds me of a time I was in New York with my husband at some corporate "do" at the Rainbow Room, when a Margarita-lubricated spouse who lived in nearby New Jersey, delivered herself of a speech to me in which she explained that unless one had graduated from an Ivy League college, one was not a "real" American; that there are no Ivy League schools in the south (where, I guess you can tell, I am from) and thus, (my dear), southerners are (at best) uneducated johnny-come-latelies and not "real" Americans.

    No, I didn't hit her. But I got my revenge: I turned the experience into an essay that was published in the Dead Mule (School of Southern Literature). Ha. So there.

    ReplyDelete
  9. Could it be that they feel their jobs are threatened by blogger reviewers, and so they're belittling them? Sheesh. I think we can decipher a valid, informed review from one that has an agenda, anywhere from the blogs to the NY Times to Amazon.

    This reminds me of a recent tv interview with a big name editor with a huge publishing house. Regarding eBooks, she said something along the line of Real readers will always love their traditional books.

    Huh? Real readers? Anything virtual isn't real from her 1980s viewpoint, readers included.

    ReplyDelete
  10. Joanne above put my thoughts into words! Those (incredibly snobby and elitist)reviewers are feeling threatened!

    Elizabeth has a point too - some reviews are done by writing buddies and would be rave reviews about books that not everyone would necessarily enjoy.

    Yes, there is the danger that an Amazon 1* review was given in protest.

    But really! This ridiculous attitude is nothing but prejudice.

    As a consumer of DVD's and books I pick up possibilities from blogs I follow and Amazon reviews.

    Sometimes, when I've finished with the product I agree with the review (some of my best reads and DVD's have been from fellow bloggers.)

    Sometimes I don't agree with the original review.

    And that's no different to when I read a review by a (erm, excuse me for breathing) "professional" reviewer.

    As a writer, I am counting on reviews by bloggers and Amazon/Goodreads customers (especially those I don't know) to give my story life.

    And I know I'll get reviews that are more real than any I've had from the "professionals."

    Judy, South Africa

    ReplyDelete
  11. What an elitist attitude. It's not the professional critics to who make or break a book, but the people who buy the book and talk about it. I say that as a paid professional reviewer. Literary snobs irritate me and I'll bet they irritate everyone around them, including themselves. A review of a book, no matter who writes it, is a valid review because it is someone's opinion who has actually read the work.

    I know my strengths and weaknesses, but not how what I write will be perceived by another person. To get that, other people have to read and review my books. I don't care who they are, if they like or dislike the book, but I do care how it sells, and people's opinions matter -- every single one of them.

    ReplyDelete
  12. There seems to be a negative element in every group that has to dress themselves up as "better than"...your title sums it up:)

    ReplyDelete
  13. In the end, critics don't buy books, people do.

    ReplyDelete
  14. Yeah, Helen. I'm with you on this one.
    karen

    ReplyDelete
  15. Perhaps a reviewer with a fine arts degree knows more ins and outs of the book and gives a more precise academic review of the book, but I'll trust a reader every time to give me a sense of the emotional impact.

    ReplyDelete
  16. Helen, I had to read Morris Dickenstein's quote five times to figure out what the heck he was trying to say ... and I'm still not sure ... but think he's denigrating Amazon reviewers, right? And you are saying that you prefer the opinion of them, the Amazon reviewer, over the professional reviewer, right? If I got all that right, then I support you ... if, not, well, never mind.

    ReplyDelete
  17. Way to go, Elizabeth!

    Thank you all for your opinions!

    I'm not sure I have a lot in common with the "professional" literary reviewers. We'd probably like different books.

    ReplyDelete
  18. Christopher, you got it right - and you made me smile while you did it.

    ReplyDelete
  19. What I like about amazon and goodreads is that I can find people who felt the same way about book that I did (both positive and negative) then I can follow 'em and see what they liked that I haven't read and usually I will like it too.

    ReplyDelete
  20. You mean pedigree and stink?
    I'd rather know what real people think of the book.

    ReplyDelete
  21. Yikes! Snobbery of any kind drives me crazy! I just don't get it.

    ReplyDelete
  22. A review from someone I know or a friend means more than one I read from a 'pro' reviewer. Keep 'em coming.

    ReplyDelete
  23. I read both blog reviews and print reviews in the newspapers, and think they bot serve a purpose. Blog reviewers are usually closer to the average reader, but professional reviewers in good newspapers often have stronger formal knowledge (education) of literature >:)

    Cold As Heaven

    ReplyDelete
  24. Stink would have been a better word choice, Alex.

    That's probably true, Cold As Heaven. I find I don't read nearly as many "literary" novels as I did in college.

    ReplyDelete
  25. Count me in with those who want to know what real people think and who care about people who actually buy books more than the la di dah elites.

    ReplyDelete
  26. Hrmph, how snobby. I've bought a couple of books after having read your reviews, 'not a real reviewer'? Double hrmph. And the word uplifting couldn't possibly be applied. But 'accurate', yes! Keep up the good work Helen.

    ReplyDelete
  27. It's interesting in the age of the Internet how I will judge a product (book) by reviews whether it's a bread maker or a book. Some of the literary folks can love it or hate it — but it is what it is.

    ReplyDelete
  28. I don't take much notice of literary critics, but would definitely buy a book based on a good review from a blog where I have found their tastes are similar to mine. It sounds like literary critics and publishers are a little scared of being replaced.
    Ann

    ReplyDelete
  29. I'm with Elizabeth. Sometimes reviewers on Amazon give 1-stars because of formatting or delivery. I've read many intelligent, in-depth reviews by book bloggers.

    ReplyDelete
  30. Perhaps I just don't a lot in common with literary or well-known reviewers. I do read those books that they might review, but I also review a lot of books that they don't. It irks me that they often act as though they are better than others and that many books are not ones worth reading, let alone reviewing.

    ReplyDelete
  31. The Internet makes reviewing so much easier for everyone, and nowadays a heck of a lot of non-self-important reviewers are catching the attention of readers and the media. I'd say the "literary reviewers" have a lot to be nervous about. *g*

    For me, a good reviewer is balanced in their opinions and, most importantly, passionate about reading and sharing their thoughts. I don't care if they're "professional" reviewers or not - only that they point me to more interesting books! That's what it comes down to: BOOKS. Not the reviewer.

    As an aside, I like that you keep your book reviews short, sweet and concise, with just the right amount of info about the plot, and you obviously think carefully about the characters and plot elements as you write them. If I don't comment on a review, it's only because not all of the subject matter pings me, but that's nothing against the writers or your reviews, just my personal tastes at work.

    ReplyDelete

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...