Notes on Reviews….

The odd thing about reviews is they’re not reviews anymore. They tend to be banal descriptions of the story that begin with what happens at the beginning, give away all the plot points and then spell out the end. There is no opinions, no critical analysis, no understanding of where the title being reviewed fits into the artistic landscape. And this asks the question if the reviewer knows what they are talking about. Yes, the artist is often neurotic and despises the indifferent art of reviewing, and yes; a review can be written in ten minutes where the project – say, a book – may take years. So you have a journalist taking your work and saying what they think they understand based on a speed read and a glance at the back cover. It’s quite possible the reviewer may be experienced enough to know what’s good and what’s another turkey. They may even read the entire work and form a justified negative opinion and call it as so. But. The art of the review itself ought to be a balanced act of expertise. It should be considered an art in and of itself. One where the reader comes away with enough information to decide for themselves whether to invest their time in the work – but no so much that all the suspense and surprise is spelled out in explicit detail and now there is no need to ever think about the work again one way or the other. There is a difference between a review and a summary. A summary can be useful in a meeting, or prior to an exam where you need factual points of a subject in question. In a summary you are not expecting creative ideas, unexpected plot twists, original or intriguing tales. You just want the information. You don’t compare a summary with another summary and ask yourself which summary is better. But you do with books. When an author’s work is being reviewed it’s important to know where in the career this work has appeared. How the creative journey of the artist is developing and where this talent might lead. The reviewer ought to be able to reference and notice the influences (or lack of) on the writer. They should be able to conjure their own comparisons with books he or she has also read and come to a balanced conclusion. The review should be critical – constructive where possible. Sure, a work may be hopeless but not always. And what we have now when it comes to reviews are a disguised form of summary. This might be acceptable in a college newspaper in the early days of a journalistic career but not on national media. Not on television, or newspaper, or digital versions of either. It’s lazy by the reviewer, does nothing for the author, and is of no real use to the reader or potential audience.


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