Friday, June 05, 2009

The End of "Negative" And "Positive"

I was nearly bowled over by an idea this morning while I was in the shower. Unfortunately, it wasn't related to my writing. It was related to a discussion Melissa Wiley and I had at A Chair, A Fireplace & A Tea Cozy. We sort of highjacked one of Liz's posts to talk about book reviews, book recommendations, book analysis, and other related topics.

At one point I mentioned that I disliked using the terms "negative" and "positive" to describe reviews. I don't believe a thoughtful discussion of a book's pros and cons is "negative." My only complaint about the use of the words "positive review" is that I think it suggests that there are also negative ones out there lurking about.

What happened this morning was that I came up with something to replace them with--analytical response and recommendation. That's it. That's all I'm going to be saying here.

Notice I'm even avoiding using the word "review." For one thing, I think it's very loaded right now. People feel too emotional about it. For another, I always worry that reviews are some special kind of writing (which I think is the case with true criticism) that I know next to nothing about. I'm much more comfortable with "response."


Liz B said...

I love the convo you and Melissa are having. And I agree with you about how loaded some terms are. It's not a "bad" or "negative" review to be critical; and being critical doesn't mean slamming something. And "positive" review can imply that any weaknesses in a book are being ignored. (Good lord you brought this up with the 'definitions matter' lawyer girl. I'm never going to start the 48 hour challeng!)

Melissa Wiley said...

YES! Yes. I love the distinction you're making. And Liz too: "being critical doesn't mean slamming something." Exactly. A respectful, considered response (analysis) can be helpful for an author. Gail, I think you're really on to something in pointing out that the way the words "positive" and "negative" are used in the context of book reviewing does a disservice to the act of analytical response.