Fifth: Don’t Be a Dick
by ________Posted on August 21st, 2012 at 3:36 pm
Fifth, don’t be a dick. Giraldi, in his review of Ohlin’s books, doesn’t merely hate the work, he hates the very idea of Ohlin — her aesthetic, her taste, her existence. Okay, fine — if everything about the book you’re writing offends you, if there’s nothing good you can say, then don’t say anything good. But don’t crow about it. You’re not impaling Hitler or protecting the Shire from Saruman. You’re reviewing a book. You want to put on a show? Nothing wrong with that — everybody loves a review with personality. Everybody enjoys a clever turn of phrase or an apt put-down. But have some perspective. Again, it’s not about you, for crap’s sake. The writer worked harder on her book than you will on your review, even if the former sucks.
Sixth, be balanced. If there is awful writing in the book you’re reviewing, and you want to quote it, go right ahead. But if the book is 5 percent awful and 95 percent fine, don’t spend 75 percent of your review quoting the worst passages. People do this when they’re angry. I understand: sometimes, when I am reading a book, I hate the things I hate far more than I like the things I like. But succumbing to the hate means that you are giving your reader an unbalanced view of the book. Indeed, your job is to characterize what the book is like — to give as full a picture as possible of the experience of reading it. This means, analyze the writing style, the flow of thoughts, the narrative approach–not just a plot summary and a bunch of rotten quotes. Control your emotions. Want the writer to be good. Want all writing to be good. If this writing is not good, regard the situation as regrettable, rather than cause for an end zone dance.