Tuesday, February 8, 2011
I like this post on The Millions by Emily St. John Mandel. It brings to mind a few interesting questions: How important should feedback be to a writer? What's the point of a negative review?
We've talked a lot about feedback here recently. As for the point of negative reviews: I guess there are two valid raisons d'etre: as a kind of consumer warning ("Don't waste yer money!") or as a contribution to a larger discussion, both of which are mostly only relevant to big books. There's really no defending a negative review of a small press book by a non-famous writer -- ignoring that book, if you don't like it, is enough. Since so much of reviewing is a matter of taste, you risk sinking a person's nascent career because of your fickle whims. I don't approve.
Of course, the real reason for reviews is publicity... and if all of a publication's reviews are positive, that would undermine the validity of their reviews in general. A reviewing publicity organ needs to distribute a certain number of negative reviews in order to maintain its credibility. Kind of depressingly arbitrary, isn't it.