Friday, June 23, 2006

Eleni [Sikelianos] and I often discuss the difference between the review culture (such as it is) for poetry and the one that exists around fiction. Basically, in part because books of poetry are often reviewed by friends, former students, etc., of the author, in part because many venues aren't keen on running negative reviews/only run very brief reviews, they often, when they get them, get flat-out raves. If one is lucky there is some analysis included, but it's all aimed at letting us know about how brilliant the thing and its author are. Fiction doesn't tend to work that way. It is certainly the case that the RCF won't run negative reviews, but man the majority of places are delighted to -- so much so that to bring out a book of fiction is to lean forward, chin first, and say, dude, slug me. One gets calloused, for sure, but some of the stuff that gets said is really something. Esp. if you write weird quiet work and your book has been farmed out, say, to the gal who regularly writes fantasy football coverage, or you write weird loud work and your book has been tossed into the lap of the I only really like quiet lyric novels guy. Not much more to say about it -- except to confess that when it's my turn (as it already is, even months ahead of the release of The Exquisite), I've come to strangely appreciate those punchings up that I do sometimes get treated to.


Blogger Laird Hunt said...

the addendum to this is, of course, that there are invariably fiction writers each season who get innoculated against negative criticism -- a positive energy wave sweeps all the large review venues, who are only to happy to pounce, claws bared, on other writers, and we get treated to glowing appraisals of the next Zadie Smith! the next DFW! the next Next!!!

1:32 PM  
Blogger gregoryedwin said...

yeah, it's a conundrum. i think the problem is the positive negative dialectic. which is to say, why can't reveiws be little works of criticism. shouldn't they discuss what the book (poetry or fiction) is trying to do, how it does it, where it succeeds, where fails. maybe i'm reading too much beckett (almost done) but the backsctrathing makes me kind of queasy.

10:27 AM  
Blogger Laird Hunt said...

Yes to the miniature works of criticism. Reviews shouldn't be extended blurbs, methinks. And yet that's too often what we get treated to. One hopes to have learned something at the end of a review and not just how happy/not happy the reviewer is.

8:29 AM  

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