Matt Denault has written up a spectacular report on Readercon 18 for FantasyBookSpot. I highly recommend reading it as some real interesting things were discussed.
Ok, so I’m going to focus on something that actually applies directly to me and rant a bit – the panel discussion title “Reviewing in the Blogosphere” with John Clute, Kathryn Cramer, Jim Freund (M), Ernest Lilley, Tom Purdom, and Gordon Van Gelder. So, the first observation is that I don’t believe any of these people actually qualify to be on a panel titled “Reviewing in the Blogosphere” – these people are certainly qualified to talk about reviewing, but they review for publications and such. Ideally, this panel should been populated by half with some amateur blogger reviewers or message board reviewers – essentially someone that’s never received a paycheck for a review.
As a result, it seems that the discussion quickly turned into “Reviewing On-line” and the challenges that the Ivory Tower have faced as they transition from print to screen rather than anything about blogs. This was not a discussion about reviewing on blogs, but the same discussion on reviews that continues to occur with these Ivory Tower reviewers who disdain the likes of me. Matt sums up some of Clute’s responses:
Clute responded that these plot summaries plus reviewer opinion are not really reviews. Asked what a review should do, Clute replied that it should be just like any other piece of writing any writer might produce, something that deploys all the skills she or he can muster, that they are proud of, and that they can envision still being in-print (and still being proud of) 10 years from now.
I can agree with much of this – a plot summary is the worst kind of review. A plot summary plus opinion can be just as useless. Many blogger reviewers do suffer from either a ‘laziness’ or perceived need to get something out quickly – this certainly applies to myself at times. Putting some true time and thought into a review is important.
However, the latter part of the summation above is where I start to disagree. John Clute writes detailed critique-style reviews. This is not something that should always be strived for. A quick review like what I write here is often all that is needed or wanted. I write reviews the way I do because they are the type of reviews I want to read. I want a quick idea of what the basic plot is and a basic idea of what is good and bad about the book. For this to be too meaningful, I need to have some knowledge and trust of the reviewer. I really don’t look for the more detailed review-critique until after I’ve read a book.
Clute seems to stop short of implying that everyone writing reviews should write as he does – but does imply that it’s not a place for amateurs. I’ve been annoyed by ‘Clute-worship’ in the past and it still annoys me now. This isn’t because of anything that Clute does – I actually believe that he deserves all the attention and praise that he gets. But there is often this idea that if you don’t strive to write a review like Clute does, that you just shouldn’t bother at all. That’s what I don’t like.
Ok, so back from the tangent – I would have loved to read a nice summary on “Reviewing in the Blogosphere” – instead they presented an Ivory Tower perspective of reviewing on-line. That’s too bad.
Oh, and let’s not forget that I’m commenting on a second-hand account of it all – I could easily be way off base.
Matt – great reporting. I hope FBS sends you to all the cons.