Saturday, August 20, 2011
Good Reviews Only... Every review is a good one...
Last night, I posted another quickie review on Goodreads. I noticed that once again, I gave the book five stars and said nice things about it. Seems that just about every book I've reviewed and/or rated was excellent and earned four or five stars.
Naturally, the question is raised: Aren't there any crappy books out there? Surely there must be some dreck that I'd only rate one or two stars...?
A few years ago, I read "The Triumph of the Thriller: How cops, crooks and cannibals captured popular fiction" by Patrick Anderson. Anderson is a novelist (Lords of the Earth, and The President's Mistress, to name just two of his many novels), and he is also a book reviewer (The Washington Post, among others).
In Anderson's book (which of course I'd say is excellent and I'd give it five stars), he discusses a possible misconception stemming from the high percentage of books he's reviewed favourably (see chapter 18).
Anderson explains the seeming tilt in his oeuvre of book reviews. There are so many books out there that there's no need to read (or finish) books you do not enjoy. He said - not surprisingly - that he only reviewed books he had actually read all the way through. As he points out "I don't want to spend my time reading bad books." There's only so many hours in a day, after all... So there you go, you gotta like the book enough to stay with it until the last page.
Then, if you actually do finish the book, you want to have enjoyed it a fair bit. As Anderson said, in essence, why would a reviewer want to spend any additional time thinking about or talking about something that ultimately was not enjoyable?
This is logical: If you've been to the doctor's office for a pap test or prostate exam, do you really want to spend time afterwards reliving the moment, sharing it with your friends, reflecting on it further and writing about it? (I guess the fact that a book gets reviewed at all is in itself something of an endorsement then.)
This isn't to say that Anderson (or other reviewers, who may in fact work quite differently from him), never pan anything. But the book has to be bad enough to warrant being written about, if for no other reason than to "save decent people from surrendering $25 for a piece of crap."
To be continued...