Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Will Blogs Save Books?

I must thank Zeek (The Way I See It) for bringing this to my attention:

Lisa Warren from The Huffington Post internet newspaper has written an article questioning blogs and their capability to post well written book reviews. I, for one, was a bit insulted as a reviewer and one who takes part in a book reviewing blog.

Some excerpts:
"I'm tempted to say it's an issue of format. Blogs are, by nature, brief. They give the appearance of having been dashed off even though many bloggers (though I'd argue not enough) spend a good deal of time crafting their posts. For that reason, we tend not to assign them the same "weight" as the reviews we see in the San Francisco Chronicle or the Washington Post."

"So if it isn't just a "size" thing, what is it? Well, I think book reviews on blogs -- particularly those of the Blogspot variety -- tend to be self-indulgent. Book reviewing bloggers need to move away from opinion in favor of judgment. How does the book compare to -- and fit in with -- the author's previous work? What's the book's place in the genre? The canon? Does the writer succeed in doing what he or she set out to do -- meaning, is it the book they meant it to be? Whether it's the book the blogger wanted it to be is of much less importance to me, frankly."

Any thoughts? How do you feel as book reviewer and/or a owner of a blog or website where book reviews are posted? Are you one of the bloggers who, "jettison the use of personal pronouns"?

Katiebabs (KB)

22 comments:

JenB said...

I'll take an emotional, self-indulgent, ranty blog review over a haughty and clinical Publishers Weekly review any day of the week.

I don't care about the opinions of some stuffy magazine guy that hates his job and takes out his frustrations on hard-working authors and their fans.

Screw "professional". I rather hear what my friends and peers have to say.

nath said...

I personally don't care what people say. I do this for fun and to help other readers like me who want an opinion before buying the books or want to discuss books.

I'm in no mean a professional reviewer and I don't care what others say... hey, if they were good at their job, there wouldn't be less and less book reviews articles in newspapers... and anyway, they always review what they think is good and always neglect romance. If we were waiting for romance reviews in the newspapers before buying books, I wouldn't buy 1/4 of what I buy yearly.

Bev(QB) said...

"Book reviewing bloggers need to move away from opinion in favor of judgment. How does the book compare to -- and fit in with -- the author's previous work? What's the book's place in the genre? The canon? Does the writer succeed in doing what he or she set out to do -- meaning, is it the book they meant it to be?"

eh? Apparently Lisa Warren couldn't get a clue if it was covered in clue musk and writhing on the ground during clue mating season.

Has she ever read a Romancelandian blog? Because all those points she makes are the norm around here and are PRECISELY why I PREFER to read blog reviews and give them more weight (if it's a blogger I regularly read) than the so-called "professional" reviews.

"Blogs are, by nature, brief,"
BRIEF? Us? Is she serious?! Most of us feel guilty and feel we haven't been fair if we do a brief review. Although many of us, from time to time, get so far behind that we DO end up doing shorter reviews but we identify them as such.

Sarai said...

I concur I do it for fun and b/c sometimes YOU people out there send me these LONG emails (okay one) asking me if I liked the book I read and why. So that is why I review b/c You guys and your intelligent MINDS want to know and I find it fun!

I am with Jen I don't want someone who HAS to do it and HATES it to be giving me his/her thoughts on the manner. Could you image this person reviewing romance? Or SHOCK horror or M/M with an open mind?

azteclady said...

Perhaps I would care more if I had a clue who on earth this person is...

Beyond the fact that she comes across as an idiot who is making huge assumptions and generalizations.

Plus, seriously, a review has to include a comparison to the author's "body of work"? So what, don't you dare review a debut novel?

And what about novels that would never in a million years be reviewed by such lofty *coughBScough* publications as the Huffington Post or the whatever Chronicle?

So I call "bullshit" on the entire thing. Reviews are not literary analysis--or at least, they shouldn't be. Reviews are from readers to readers--period.

Katie(babs) said...

Bev: I had to laugh too when Warren said blogs are brief. *snort*
I find myself cutting back on my reviews and posts, especially when one of my reviews will hit 1500 words!

Jill D. said...

Book reviewing bloggers need to move away from opinion in favor of judgment.

This comment doesn't make any sense to me. I thought the whole idea of a book review was that a person explains what they did and didn't like of the book - hense the person's opinion of said book. Am I alone in this line of thinking?

Secondly, if bloggers/internet didn't review books, where would I go to get books reviews (for romance). Big national media houses, don't review romance books. I think in the 5 years I have been subscribing to Entertainment Weekly, they have had maybe a handful of romance book reviews.

Anyway, if someone thinks that a blogger doesn't have a well thought out, comprehensive review, then that person doesn't have to read it or ever have to visit that blog again. It's that simple.

Ana said...

The person is obviously not reading the right blogs. No one can say that any of us do short (Ha!)
or incoherent reviews.
Furthermore, reviews are for readers and they should be the ones judging what is good or not. I find mainstream newspaper's
reviews so freaking boring.
- ok, that's probably because they mostly, review "proper" literature -
but that's another thing isn't it? I find that the best review blogs out there are the ones that review Fantasy,
SciFi and Romance which on the other hand are the best-seller genres aren't they? If the major newspapers started
catering for the correct public that represent the majority of the market, then they would probably keep their sessions.
In any case, the future of the reviewing market is in the blogs, me thinks.

Thea said...

HAH! *snorts*

I am firmly on the side of everyone that has commented.

While the writer of the article cautions book bloggers to stop making reviews personal and get rid of possessive pronouns...uh, hello pot? My name's kettle. She has written her entire article in the first person, dropping opinions left and right.

Honestly, it's this kind of "elitist" view of literature that drives me batty. Would this woman or readers like her (who want more "formal" reviews--which sound more like book summaries to me) ever consider reading mainstream "lesser" genres--like romance, or speculative fiction or heck a graphic novel? No...what she is describing is the type of blog that sticks to Cormac McCarthy or Oprah book of the month novels.

A lot of the blogs she seems to target are the ones that cater to the broader market--and surprise! These are the books that sell. Perhaps newspapers are losing their reviewers because--GASP--mainstream readers find those reviews to be dull and perhaps aren't interested in the selection of books they review? We read the Harry Potter novels, and the paranormal romances, and the urban fantsy books, and Nora Roberts. Why must literature be perceived as a snobby hobby? I for one am glad that our blogs are less formal, more conversational, and still provide great reviews for books that needn't be Pulitzer Prize candidates to warrant a post.

Carolyn Jean said...

I think personal reviews are best! Is this article honestly asking us all the pass judgement rather than give a personal opinion? Sheeesh!

little alys said...

Oh please, I worked in the newspaper/magazine industry and "professional" reviews are merely different, not better.

I'd take personalized and openly individual views about something that's clearly subjective than a supposed objective review.

...opinion in favor of judgment...
Yes, when you judge something you don't have any opinion whatsoever. And a review is obviously not an opinion someone makes about whether they liked something or not (is my sarcasm getting through?).

A big BTW, with the internet, blogs probably have the upperhand in terms of spreading word over specific genres and shedding light on new authors and books.

Zeek said...

"The person is obviously not reading the right blogs."

That's exactly the problem. Once again the popular masses (i.e. romance/scifi/fantasy) are ignored by elitist snobs who are so far removed from what people REALLY want they might as well be living on another planet.

Aymless said...

Hey! Who are they to say these things! They obviously haven't been hanging out with this blog group.

I'm with JenB. I like the blog reviews much more than publisher reviews. Ack! I want emotion in my reviews and the publisher reviews make everything sound so horribly boring.

And brief is good most of the time. Since it allows me to read a bunch of reviews. But have to say they haven't seen Ana's dissertation on Demon Angel if they thing blog reviews are short! And it was full of emotion and wonderfully written.

JenB said...

The person is obviously not reading the right blogs.

Yeah, they're probably reading my blog.

OMG, can you imagine if one of those uptight desk jockeys visited my blog? Or Lisabea's on Manlove Monday? LOLOL

That would be so fun!!

Marianne McA said...

Suppose it's intended to provoke debate.
You could write a piece saying the opposite as easily:

"And, more broadly, why don't we as readers give book reviews on blogs as much respect as book reviews in major market papers?"

could become

"And, more broadly, why don't we as readers give book reviews in major market papers as much respect as book reviews on blogs?"

Either way, it's just an assumption it's backed up with some sort of evidence.

I'm not sure if she's right in her contention that blogs aren't currently providing the sort of coverage that newspaper reviewers do - and I think she doesn't properly argue the case as to why they ought to.
It almost comes down to 'Don't say where you got the book, because I'm not interested, so no-one else will be either.'
And she doesn't really talk about the ways in which blog reviews might be better than newspaper reviews - in their ability to be conversational, or to look at a wider range of books.

Mostly I'm left wondering if books need to be 'saved'.

Brandy said...

I would rather read (and write) a personal review rather a review that was so brief to the point of "huh". What is it with these publications and their elitist attitudes?

Peaches said...

anyone can say whether or not a book is good for cannon's sake or whatnot. Sinclair's The Jungle is a good book, technically speaking. It's also a pain in the ass to read. I'd rather a reviewer tell me how enjoyable the book is and why he or she found it enjoyable or not, than have someone rant on about how prolific the world's most boring novel is.

When a reveiwer shows personal opinion, over time you get to know the reviewer's taste and by that make an informed decision based on how the reviewer's taste's sync (or don't) with your own

Kate said...

(Peaches, in a totally non-related comment, I have to add that I think The Jungle is one of the greatest literary failures of all time.

And there! An opinion. In first person.)

Ciara said...

I never read book reviews in the newspaper. Perhaps if I enjoyed literary fiction I would, but there is no mainstream press that treats the romance genre with the respect it deserves. Therefore, I get all my book reviews from blogs. Books are art and therefore reviews are entirely subjective. There is no way that a "professional" reviewer could objectively judge a book. Who the hell cares if it fits into some cannon of literature? Publishing is ENTERTAINMENT.

Brie said...

Who is this woman, anyway? Where would I be without blog reviews? Lost, I tell you. I absolutely love blog hopping and reading the opinions of people like me, people that read romance, fantasy and sci-fi, I can't find authentic reviews for these genera's in the newspaper.

And as far as reviews not being well crafted, I beg to differ. There are plenty of bloggers that put much time into their reviews. To say they don't is not only a misguided assumption, it's false.

Katiebabs said...

I would read more print reviews but magazines like People and even Entertainment Weekly review books that I have no interest in. And when they review maybe 2 or 3 every couple of months I enjoy, it is in a very small column, off to the side with only a few sentences. Blogs such as this one and others are by people I can understand, even if they may use too many first person pronouns or god forbid say that their mother or father may enjoy this.
Warren needs to get her head out of her ass. And isn't her article on a on-line blog? She just insulted herself!

kmont said...

"Blogs are, by nature, brief,"

"BRIEF? Us? Is she serious?! Most of us feel guilty and feel we haven't been fair if we do a brief review. Although many of us, from time to time, get so far behind that we DO end up doing shorter reviews but we identify them as such."

And too, review styles will vary! If we all reviewed exactly the same, down to the word count, well wouldn't we all be nice little reviewing robots?

Sounds like some "professional" reviewers might feel threatened by blog reviewers. Why else try to discredit them?