There’s an interesting discussion going around the blogs on the proper role of book reviews. Dan Green sums the discussion up in this post (I’ve added a comment to Dan’s post, so see that if you’re interested in my take).
BTW, I recently read the infamous McSweeney’s essay on snark. I only mention this because it seems (at least for the time being) inextricably tied to any discussion of what reviews should do. I found the essay a little haphazard. It is very erudite and brings in some good facts, but I didin’t really see it going in any discernable direction. Basically, it starts out with the question of what a book review should do, circles around that for a bit, abruptly stops, and denounces snark.
A couple interesting things. First off, a wide misperception is that the essay rules out negative reviews. It does not:
To be perfectly clear‚ÄîI am not espousing a feel-good, criticism-free climate, where all ambitious literary books receive special treatment, just because they’re "literary" (I acknowledge the dubiousness of the term)‚ÄîI’m simply asking that we read between the lines, and see what value systems these reviews are really espousing.
It is interesting to see what this has mutated into, however, as McSweeney’s currently does exhibit a bias against negative but snark-free reviews.
Second, the McSweeney’s essay argues that snark is bad because it: a) is just a reviewer trying to be entertaining, b) is just a reviewer trying for a quotable sound byte, or c) is a reviewer masking a lack of knowledge about literature with sarcasm.
I don’t doubt that a, b, and c are sometimes the case, but so what? If its a case of a or b, why not let the reviewer have her witticism? As much as I love literature, book reviews can sometimes be dry if approached with too formal of writing. Why not spice it up with a witty turn of phrase every now and then?
And as for c, I don’t see where the problem is. If a know-nothing reviewer is supplanting intelligence with invective then screw her. Disregard it. Don’t read it. Trash it back. Further, I don’t see why McSweeneys would need worry about c unless they are supporting reviewers who are ignorant w/r/t literature.
You Might Also Like:
More from Conversational Reading:
- Why Read? (cont) Well, now that I see that Salon is in the ring on this little discussion that started with Dan Green and Leonard Bast, I’d just...
- Weekend Review Rundown New York Times Interestingly, Times film critic A.O. Scott reviews TC Boyle‚Äôs latest. (Scott says the book has too much sex, whereas the Boston Globe...
- TEV at Wallace Reading Even though TEV claims not to like his fiction (say it ain’t so), he was on the scene at the latest DFW reading. TEV provides...
Related posts brought to you by Yet Another Related Posts Plugin.