|The Disney persona hiding one of my favourite reviewers out there via Wikipedia – yes, Wendy Darling.|
Usually it starts like this: a reviewer gets a book. It doesn’t matter whether the publisher has sent it for free or it was legally purchased in a book shop or borrowed from a library. The book starts it all. The reviewer, who is primary its reader, doesn’t like the book. He or she feels like sharing their negative feelings and they write a review; it might be snarky and/or funny, it might be angry but not necessarily so. He or she might also include some pictures, animations or gifs to illustrate his or her point and make the whole review a bit different.
One example is linked below – an excellent review by Wendy Darling, posted on Goodreads, dealing with a book I don’t intend to read (no pics).
Then the author sees the said review and feels outraged – his or her splendid work has been criticized publicly! Don’t get me wrong – I can imagine it hurts, most probably a lot but I must admit some authors deal with their hurt feelings in a very mature way. I’ve witnessed such reactions first-hand on my blog and I admired them greatly although often my admiration for those authors’ books was definitely less pronounced. Overall I can’t complain – although I do write scathing reviews from time to time I’ve never been personally attacked. Some of my internet fellow bloggers have, for a change. Although I don’t know them personally I felt outraged for their sake.
It is really surprising to what lenghts some authors, allegedly mature adults, often wives/husbands and mothers/fathers, are prepared to go when facing a criticizm, no matter whether constructive or not (I am going to deal with that particular problem later). They can attack the reviewer verbally on public sites such as the aforementioned Goodreads or Twitter or Facebook. They can launch a hatred campaign involving other parties, like their family and friends, which might consist of spamming, calling the reviewers horrible names on their blogs and cussing a lot. Do you think anybody deserves such a treatment just because they don’t like your book? If you honestly answer ‘yes’ then maybe you shouldn’t write at all.
Then I surfed the blogosphere a bit and found different opinions about the whole issue. One of them left me even more angry – I mean the post written by Maggie Stiefvater on her blog. I do not suggest or assume that Ms Stiefvather has ever behaved in a way described by me above, far from it, but her assessment of the non-professional reviewers and their work left me very, very confused and angry.
Firstly, she stated that a review “(…) is an unbiased, careful look at a book — basically it is a little academic paper. It involves an itty-bitty thesis on your opinion of the book, surrounded by tiny supporting sentences describing the strengths and weaknesses of said book. Every month, dozens upon dozens of these reviews come out in professional journals.”
Well, I do try to write unbiased reviews but I know most often than not a review is anything but a scientific paper. It deals with your feelings and feelings are never unbiased. Ler me support my view quoting here the definitions of the verb ‘review’, taken from The Free Dictionary:
The third definition speaks about examining but never mentions anything about it being as unbiased as a scientific paper. The fourth definition is even more pertinent here – giving a critical report doesn’t require any evenhandedness, quite the opposite in fact. When you criticise a work of fiction or a work of art your feelings are as important as facts and numbers. Does a review have to be published in ‘professional journals?” No, not at all, especially in an era of the Internet and digitalized mass media – look at the second meaning of ‘review’ as an intransitive verb. You can write for a newspaper or magazine but it is not necessary.
Well, if it was the matter of a simple definition I wouldn’t bother to write this essay of mine but Ms Stiefvater went on saying:
“Let’s talk about the negative “reviews” that authors have been lashing out at. They often involve animated gifs, swearing, and snark. They’re often quite funny. But here’s the thing, though. When a blogger writes a biased, hilarious, snarky rundown of a book they despised, he/ she is not writing a review. They are writing a post about a book. I’m not saying that bloggers shouldn’t write biased, hilarious, snarky rundowns of books. I’m saying that those rundowns are not reviews.
Well I couldn’t agree less.