Thursday, March 17, 2011

Why I Don't Write (Many) Reviews

Man, I am just a blogging machine these days.

Let's talk about reviews. Specifically, why I don't write them. Because I don't. Write them, that is. It might sound strange that I feel this way, seeing as how I'm married to someone who writes not one but two review blogs (one for comics, one for other books), and I have friends who write review blogs, mostly books, but also film, music, products, etc. And of course there are lots of people active on Goodreads or the Amazon forums or whatnot. But personally, I can't/don't/won't write them, unless we're including sarcastic reviews like my Sliders recaps.

For one, unless something is a total piece of crap, I have an incredibly hard time reviewing it. Because, what do you say? For me, a positive recommendation is something more along the lines of "you should read this, it's awesome." "Well, why should I read it?" "Um... because it's awesome?? Just trust me on this, dude." Saying an author is lyrical, transcendent, has a fine way with words, is a voice of their generation -- all that stuff is well and good, but it doesn't really mean anything, does it? Positive reviews boil down into one sentence: "Based on my own idiosyncratic tastes, I think this is a worthwhile book to read." So that review can only be trusted if you and the reviewer have shared tastes, and this says more about the review writer than the book in question. I can get better recommendations by perusing the current book/music habits of those people with similar tastes (which, ironically or probably not, doesn't sync up much/at all with my friends and especially my husband) than by reading reviews.

Also, positive reviews don't leave much room for biting, snarky commentary, which let's face it, is my blogging "style" if, indeed, I have one at all. Positive reviews require sincerity, and sincerity is not one of the redeeming features of my Internet Persona. There are just fewer ways to jazz up a positive review than a negative one; you can say something like "she wrote that book like your momma bakes chocolate chip cookies... very well!" but that seems forced. But there is no limit to the insulting phrases one can use to tear down someone else's treasured creation. The function of my blog isn't to be informative, it's to be entertaining (even if only to myself), and I am not entertained by positive reviews. That probably speaks to my limitations as a reviewer, but since I don't care about getting better at writing reviews, I can live with it.

So now we get into negative reviews. I will admit that I love writing me some negative reviews, even if they have the potential to ruin my career. But here's the thing: unless I had to read a book, which assumes that I'm a paid reviewer or something of that ilk, I'm probably not going to continue reading it if it's really that awful. Yeah, I read the Hunger Games trilogy, which I thought was pretty awful... but if I finished it, was it really that awful? So once again, we get into nothing to say that isn't based on my own opinion, which clearly can't be trusted if I finished the dang thing. (This is less true when it comes to movies or television, because it takes a lot less time to watch a crappy movie than finish a crappy book, so I'm less likely to bail. Unless falling asleep is a form of bailing.)

The last but maybe most important reason I don't write reviews is that it takes so much time. Way more time than writing a blog entry, or even some fiction of my own, because unlike blogging and fiction, I don't have a strong drive to write reviews, they're like school assignments. In Killing Yourself to Live, Chuck Klosterman said something along the lines of "I don't read books, because reading takes as long as writing, and I get paid to write." Every hour I might spend writing a review (and it would take me that long to maybe write half a review) is an hour I don't spend writing original fiction, or reading. That's too much of a sacrifice to make, especially for a positive review, otherwise known as a review that isn't funny.

So, if I ever write a review, expect it to be both totally negative and have way more to do with me than with the product in question. Basically you don't want me to review your book/album/film, unless it's with the one-word description of "awesome," my highest imaginable praise.

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