The OF Blog: It would be nice if some would stop "monkeying around" when reviewing

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

It would be nice if some would stop "monkeying around" when reviewing

I do a quick browse just now through the usual blogosphere chatter and apparently there was a bit of a stir when on Twitter Jonathan McCalmont said in response to looking for a good review of a particular SF work the following:

The genre blogosphere : tangible proof that dozens of monkeys at dozens of keyboards can't produce meaningful sentences.

When taken in context, it's just a mild, general complaint about the lacking quality of some reviewing.  But then I see it led to this post over at Floor to Ceiling Books.   Not going to say too much about the particulars of that post (you can read it and judge for yourselves), but I do have some tangential thoughts related to some of the comments there.

Yes, people have different reasons for blogging, just as certain people have different talents when it comes to expressing in written (or verbal) form just what it is about a work that moves them so.  I must admit to being somewhat bemused at seeing my name mentioned in a response, apparently as a representative of a sort of "weighty" "essay" approach to reviewing.  It is odd being viewed as this sort of super-erudite reviewer, to be honest.  If anything, I probably "dumb down" several of my reviews, for a variety of reasons. 

What I think should be a better discussion topic than whether or not one ought to take offense at a general comment about the uselessness of certain review styles for certain readers is whether or not reviewers ought to stop "monkeying around" and taking the easiest approach to reviewing a book.  There is no prescriptive approach to reviewing, but there certainly is a world of difference between a reviewer putting his/her most into a review, regardless of the chosen format, and someone who half-asses it.  As an occasional review reader, I know those who seem to disengage themselves from the story being reviewed tend to be those whose reviews I disregard in the future, if I bother reading those blogs in the future.  So rather than fretting about what someone thinks about a particular review style, how about y'all just write to the best of your abilities within that chosen format?


Anonymous said...

The irony here? I find McCalmont fairly banal in his own writings. jv

Larry said...

All I can say is that I always try to be cognizant of the fact that whenever I point fingers at others, that three more are pointing right back at myself. All I can do is try to improve my own reviews first and then try to encourage others to up their quality as well.

Harry Markov said...

The whole 'dumb down' thing you said might be interpreted as 'my readers are too stupid to understand me, if I don't simplify'.

Anyway, I think that it's high time we stop giving a f*ck as you Americans say it.

BTW, I saw you dropped TLR from your blog roll. What finally did you in? The repetitive nature or me trying to serialize my reviews? [I hear people say the darnest things when they use more words].

Do you think of doing a Disappointing blogs of 2010 essay?

Anonymous said...

Monkeys are smarter than sheep! McCalmont seems to be softening up.

Next thing you know he'll be posting positive Wheel of Time reviews that feature copious amounts of the word "indeed."

- Zach H.

Mimouille said...

I totally agree with Mr. Markov here.

To me "It is odd being viewed as this sort of super-erudite reviewer, to be honest. If anything, I probably "dumb down" several of my reviews, for a variety of reasons." reads as : oh I look erudite to you peons, well it's funny, because I'm am even more erudite than my reviews seem to you guys are really stupid. From someone who reads 50 books a month in 4 languages at least, it comes as scornful...I am sure this is not your intention though, even you try to be "cognizant" of many things, maybe you overlooked that :)

No hard feelings though. (seriously)

PS: I would love it if you could dumb them down a bit more, to my level, and add some pictures, because I lose focus when there is too much text.

Larry said...

Interesting to see what can be read into statements. I suppose I could post reviews of books in my original research area next year, though.

As for the blogroll pruning, it's in advance of what I plan on discussing this weekend.

Amy said...

Ahhh the biggest issue of online communication - we are always being misinterpreted! I know I definitely don't always write to the best of my ability (especially as I've been reading more lighter fare than regular this year) but next year I do hope to improve on that!

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