Sunday, April 22, 2007

Reader Response

Anyone else notice how short and unreview-like that last post was? For the past couple of months, I've been thinking that maybe I don't really review books at my blog. When I saw Colleen's first post in a series on reviewing at Chasing Ray, it occurred to me that I may not even know what a review should be.

So I've decided that what I write here are reader responses.

Original Content isn't a pure literary blog, anyway. It's my major marketing tool, since I'm so lame at real-world marketing, my way of keeping my name in front of readers and reminding them that I and my work exist. Under those circumstances, is it even appropriate that I should muddy the waters by presuming to review books?

I do like to pretend to talk to people about what I've read, though. But I don't know if what interests me in my reading is what should go into a review. I'm usually interested in how a book represents a certain type of writing. Or I'll obsess about one particular aspect of a book. Or I'll drone on about how a book connects with something else in my life. Or I'll take off on some book that was written back before the Fall, which is hardly up-to-the-minute criticism now, is it?

None of that seems like reviewing. So I'm going to continue doing what I've always done, I'm just going to call it something else.

This is going to get me off the hook with one of my young family members, by the way--the family member with the really strong sense of Moral Values. (Who knows where that came from.) He believes I have no integrity worth mentioning because I won't give the titles of books I absolutely hate, the books I feel have no redeeming social value. He's right. A true reviewer should do that. But my feeling has always been that I am a writer with a blog. Is it right for me to use my personal, self-made soapbox to bash other writers who may not have blogs?

I absolutely believe in discussing what I don't like (and God knows, I don't like a lot), but because I am not a pure review site the way true literary blogs are, I feel I should always find something positive to balance out what I have to say. (Sort of the way Paula Abdul always tells bad singers how nice they look.) Sometimes I have to just link to more favorable reviews to tell readers that mine is not the final word. Sometimes, however, I hate a book so much I can't bring myself to do even that. The fact that positive reviews (sometimes starred reviews) exist for a book I can't stand, puts me into Lewis Black mode. Some awful books I can't name or my head will explode.

If I do reader responses instead of reviews, I can keep my head in one piece.


Unknown said...

Gail, I always enjoy your "reviews." Like J.L. Bell at Oz and Ends, you often look at a book in an interesting and thought provoking way. They may not be traditional reviews, but I learn a lot by reading them. Whatever you want to call it, I hope you'll keep doing it!

Gail Gauthier said...

Oh, no, I won't stop. I don't know any carbon-based lifeforms who read children's and YA lit--except for Harry Potter, of course, which I'm not all that found of. So responding to my reading here is as close as I get to talking about what I've read.

Unknown said...

I have to laugh because only a longstanding SF and/or Star Trek fan would use the term "carbon-based lifeforms."

Gail Gauthier said...

But it so fits the need here, the difference between the people we need only on-line and the people we know off-line. I don't like to say on-line and the real world because they're both real.

Really, they are. I'm not imagining you. I swear.

MotherReader said...

This is late to the game, but whatever. (I actually read it a while ago, but didn't comment then.)I wanted to say that I liked your idea of readers response instead of formal reviews. I agree with Sheila, that I like the way you look at books and I don't need to see any changes here either. I can read a straight out review anywhere.