Soup Dish: book people are talking about...
✽The most interesting articles I saw this week were again on the topic of niceness in reviews. I think about this a lot. In What Do We Even Want From Book Reviews Anymore? Jason Diamond makes a compelling argument against "niceness:"
Amid all the discussion about what critics should or shouldn’t do, it’s rare to hear any substantive debate over what criticism actually is — and, specifically, what function it currently serves for readers. There are plenty of talented book critics whose work we should be talking about, many of whose jobs are in constant peril, yet we seem more interested in arguing about what tone or approach the profession as a whole should take than these writers’ specific reviews and the books considered within them. This is what’s so troubling about the level of abstractness with which we approach book criticism these days. Not only is it weakening the already shaky position of the book review, but it’s making us forget why the form is so important in the first place.And I think he has some good points. I would far rather hear about a specific post that made well- or poorly- supported comments about a book, than generalized complaining about "online tone." He references this Slate article, which strikes me as a bit more whiny about the good old days, but makes the point:
Reviewers shouldn't be recommendation machines, yet we have settled for that role, in part because the solicitous communalism of Twitter encourages it. Our virtue over the algorithms of Amazon and Barnes & Noble, and the amateurism (some of it quite good and useful) of sites like GoodReads, is that we are professionals with shaded, informed opinions. We are paid to be skeptical, even pugilistic, so that our enthusiasms count for more when they’re well earned.Which I agree with, but I am mostly happy to cede that responsibility to professional critics and stay mainly in the role of recommending stuff I love. Tackling hard questions and fixing problems is something I do in my professional life, but I am not obligated to take that on for a hobby I love. I will say that I would be sorry to see the role of a professional critic go the way of the buggy whip. It's a brave new world in publishing and it's disrupting so many elements-- I hope the professional critic makes it through to the other side.
✽This review of Why I Read, by Wendy Lesser, is reviewing a book which is about how to read books, so it's a bit recursive in nature. I found the quotes from the book intriguing and enticing and they made me want to read it. The swooning editorialization about the book was everything that Jason Diamond and Jacob Silverman bemoan, including the supercilious quote:
Lesser has nothing to say about social media, because for the true bibliophile there’s nothing to say about social media.Pretty much all the quotes made me want to read the book, and all the original material in the article made me want to slap the writer of the article.
✽Loved this post from Kaetrin on the default characters in our heads, and what it takes for an author to put their own character there.
✽I saw a tweet linking to this article, filled with righteous outrage, and followed it to the source. To be honest I don't really understand all the outrage. C S Lakin (a pseudonym) discusses how she analyzed the construction and marketing of a niche genre e-book. And seems to have met with pretty good success. I didn't see condescension or lack of respect-- but maybe it's distressing to hear about an author who can succeed at writing a genre that she herself doesn't love? Interestingly (to me, anyway), Lakin doesn't seem to understand that the key to her success is more about how she managed the keywords and the Amazon positioning than how she wrote the book. I read a page or two from the preview and wasn't particularly impressed (it sounded a lot like my own attempt to write an historical romance, and you'll just have to take my word for it that that is NOT a compliment). Seems to me that there is good stuff to learn there, and if you don't like the "attitude" of the writer, then you don't have to take on the attitude to see what she's done to succeed in marketing. I think it might be interesting to read the book, and then read the Catherine Anderson title that she says she used to analyze the structure... but I'm not sure I can be bothered; it's two genres I don't love (sweet and western) in one package.
What I'm reading
✽Blazed through Kresley Cole's MacRieve this week. I thought the plot twists were a little bit pat, but the characters made up for it, for me. I wouldn't say it's my favorite title in the series, but a solid addition.
✽See, writing stuff down sometimes helps. I was browsing my stash for something to read, and after my Thursday Thirteen on historicals, I grabbed up a Jennifer Haymore title, Twice Tempted, to nibble on. First in a series! Identical twin, lost at sea! But, no body found, so we know what that means, right soap opera fans? Am I right? Pretty sure I'm right.
✽And then sometimes I'm just in the mood for something a little grittier, so I'm also reading Beyond Pain, by Kit Rocha. Hot damn, I love this series.
Outlander Watch... Och. I canna wait for Jamie and Claire onscreen.
✽Nice article with the latest gossip and the second version of the official series trailer, with a bit more of Jamie and Claire together.
Jamie pic of the week: