The OF Blog: Perspectives, namely those in that rat's cage called review blogging

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Perspectives, namely those in that rat's cage called review blogging

Been thinking a bit about perspective and its limitations ever since I began writing this morning my review of Christopher Priest's Inverted World for the SFF Masterworks blog.  Perspective is an essential element in our lives; it allows us to gauge the benignity or malicious of everything around us.  However, perspective is a limited entity and our perspectives are often skewed.  Sometimes, it's our endocrines that skew them (we get pissed more easily when the endocrines are high, or we jump at the smallest sounds).  Other times, perspectives can be skewed by our educational disparities, our upbringings, cultural differences, etc.

The same applies to discussing literature of all forms and stripes.  Sometimes, we just don't know what we know and we think we know more than what we really know (and yes, I realize that sounds like something Donald Rumsfeld might have said about the situation in Iraq several years ago).  But yet we often make the mistake of presuming that our perspective is the "privileged" one, that others who disparage our opinions are somehow wrong.  Sometimes, you get silly little spats like this one that broke out today over at the Speculative Scotsman.  I say "silly" because of several competing beliefs as to the "inferiority" and/or "superiority" of what amounts to modes of literary expression.  I say "little" because in the grand scheme of life, or even in the much smaller world of reading and interacting with a literary composition, it is tinier than a squirrel's turd (yes, my obligatory squirrel reference for this post).

I don't trust myself enough to remember when to carry out the trash, so why should I trust myself to have a godlike perspective on any subject?  Fallibility is a very human trait (errare humanum est and all that) and whenever I read long thread comments like that, I envision a sort of 24 hour news channel take on opinion discussing:  a bunch of people shouting at cross purposes, with no attempt at conflict resolution.  Much better to just laugh it off and take a deep breath, maybe go for a walk, rather than to continue to perpetuate blather.

Another, much less serious issue related to perspective is a curious interview that Aidan Moher did with Jeff VanderMeer recently.  Although on the whole I found the interview to be entertaining, there were times that it felt as though Aidan asked some rather strange questions.  For instance, there are several references to me in there.  While I suppose I could be flattered by being considered important enough to have things I said raised in interviews with established, acclaimed writers, for those wanting to know what VanderMeer had to say about his writings and his editorial projects, questions about what an online reviewer and erstwhile anthology editor had to say about anything is rather odd.  I'm not that important, nor are a lot of the things I have to say going to be interesting to those who want to hear about the author's own opinions.  Sometimes that happens, though.  Online bloggers read something that interests them and they sometimes assume that would be interesting to an audience much larger than their own. 

It certainly is an insidious thing, believing that our Lilliputian matters are much larger than what they are.  Sometimes, it just might be better to assume that you're wrong until you can prove to some that you are maybe only partially wrong.  Even that skirts close to perception warping.  Maybe just doubting that anything is as vital as it might seem will just have to suffice for now.  Pardon me while I worry about this baby squirrel that fell out of a tree near the house.  I worry that it might be dead.  That is more important at the moment than arguing over the qualities of various literary modes.

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