The OF Blog: How to be a better, more pretentious blogger/reviewer

Monday, April 21, 2008

How to be a better, more pretentious blogger/reviewer

Main Entry:
French prétentieux, from prétention pretension, from Medieval Latin pretention-, pretentio, from Latin praetendere
1: characterized by pretension: as a: making usually unjustified or excessive claims (as of value or standing) pretentious fraud who assumes a love of culture that is alien to him — Richard Watts> b: expressive of affected, unwarranted, or exaggerated importance, worth, or stature <pretentious language> <pretentious houses> 2: making demands on one's skill, ability, or means: ambitious, pretentious daring of the Green Mountain Boys in crossing the lake — American Guide Series: Vermont>

In much of contemporary discourse, "pretentious" has become the "it" thing to call someone, supplanting past favorites such as "git," "snob," and my all-time favorite, "poopyhead who has cooties." Unfortunately, this much-maligned word has become even more of a pejorative, with legions using it at the drop of the hat to signify that the signifier believes that the signified is little better than an obnoxious twirp. However, as the definition I listed bears out, if one has a valid point to make that runs counter to whatever facile argument that another desires to make, then the usage of "pretentious" is like a corollary of Godwin's Law - it kills them dead.

It is time to take back the word "pretentious" and to claim it for ourselves, just as "bad" has become the new "good" and just as "sick" is threatening to become quite well indeed. Instead of shirking the label, I embrace it, because dog gone it, I'm
ambitious! I don't care to settle for "general" opinion or for "common" tastes. If I cared for what the vulgar want, I'd quaff it, motherfucker.

Even in the relatively tiny world of SF blogging, there are people who seem to fear standing out from the crowd. "Oh noes! Spoilers are teh suck and full of fail!," one might hear such declaim. But how in the hell can one even
think about writing about the damn story if one doesn't dare to take it on, wrestle it, hog-tie it, and make it squeal like a pig in order for something to be gleaned from it? But once one sapere aude and asks others, "What was so damn important about that story in the first place?," it seems the defensive shields are set to full and the "pretentious" grenades are thrown.

I am quite ambitious in everday life. I hate being wrong and I want to challenge what's going on. I am pretentious. In reviewing, lately I've become more and more dissatisfied with many blog reviews (including many of my earlier ones) and I want to push and see what's out there. Same with my reading; the same-old often results in the rusty-ol'. So with that in mind, here are a few tips on how to be a better, more pretentious blogger/reviewer:

Question yourself - Before you start writing the first sentence, question why in the world you're writing it and what you could say that would knock the socks off of anyone. Aim high, even if you end up hitting someone below the belt.

Believe in what you say - Honesty is undervalued too much these days. Once you're honest with yourself and have faith that what you are about to write is better than the moldy sliced bread being served up elsewhere, you'll be fine.

If it smells like shit, looks like shit, and threatens to taste like shit, it's shit, dude - State the obvious on occasion; some might be shocked by it.

Go further and deeper in - Harriet Klausner is one of the least-likely people to be labeled as being "pretentious." Ever wondered why? Say something more than just your own damn personal opinion. Give evidence, support it, and defend it if need be.

Keep pluggin' - There have been numerous times, especially on a few semi-popular forums, where I've been called all sorts of shit, just because I didn't support their points of view and because I didn't know them from Adam or Eve (whether they know their own asses from a hole in a ground is a different matter). While on occasion it's irritated me or made me pause a bit too much, it really isn't worth it stooping to the level of the uncouth and reacting to their petty comments. Best to keep on challenging yourself, even if it means pissing off a few more of the dullard cretins who inhabit such forums like squatters.

With these goals in mind, not to mention a healthy dose of pragmatism and/or high-quality vodka, you can be one of the best pretentious bloggers/reviewers out there.

So tip your own hat, nod, smile, and practice being erudite in the face of near-illiterate responses.


Jeff C said...

Nice post, even if I fall in the non-pretentious, don't quote the book, side. Though admittedly I dont read books for the challenge, but for fun, so my reviews follow that pattern and arent exactly challenging or literary :)

When you mentioned you were going to write a tongue in cheek post about pretentious reviewers, I actually thought it was going to be related to your "not a true SFF fan " post ;)

Lsrry said...

Well, I'm saving that one for later. I've been planning on writing something like this for weeks now. That other post, I never took all that seriously, as evidenced by my comments throughout. But perhaps I'll write something more on that later this week or next.

And as for my reviews, I'm reverting back to my academic days to some extent. It's what I want to read the most, so I'm going to have fun with that.

Jonathan M said...

The thing is that you can't aspire to be something you're not without being pretentious. So anyone who seeks to improve themselves is immediately slapped down by the use of that particular word.

It's no accident that the word stems from the a period of rather swift democratisation in French politics and was used to slap down people of lower birth who got ideas above their station.

Mihai A. said...

Very nice post. And I think that the critic has to be the writer himself, and also to listen to the critics if this are constructive.

Lsrry said...

I agree, Jonathan, which is why I find the entire usage of the word to be in turns amusing and irritating. Since I'm going to be "pretentious" regardless of what I do because of who I am, why not aim to become a better pretentious blogger by setting higher goals and expectations?

Dark Wolf, I do pay some heed to what others say, if only to examine why they react in such fashions and why I react at times against that.

Chris, The Book Swede said...

Very interesting post. There's a lot I'll have to bear in mind the next time I write a review.

I've been liking my reviews a lot more lately, though there always be times that I look at it and go "god that's awful" (it's always the review that people like most, probably!) ;)

I try to write the kind of review I like to read.

Lsrry said...

I understand, Chris. I'm always pushing myself to be better and it looks like my efforts are starting to bear some fruit...and a lot more labor to come. Have a revision to complete tonight before I write another, all in advance of one later that might be quite difficult to write, but that's a contingent one and it might be delayed for some months if things don't fall into place time-wise.

Add to Technorati Favorites