Book reviews are a small part of this blog but to be honest I don’t review all the books I read. This is because I’ll only review the really good ones, the books about which I have something positive to say. Unfortunately recently I have read a spate of mediocre to average books and so there hasn’t been review on the blog for a while.
I don’t like giving a book a bad review, primarily because I can fully appreciate the amount of work the writer has put into it. I think about the years of work I have put into my current manuscript, the sacrifices I’ve made in the process, and how much it means to me and then put myself in the other writer’s shoes. Who am I to judge their work negatively and put something mean out into the world? Ultimately I just can’t do it.
In a way bad reviews are easier to write. It’s fun to flex your creative muscle and come up with some truly damning yet funny turn of phrase. A couple of my favourite examples in this regard are Alex Petridis’ review of Paris Hilton’s album and Anthony Lane’s hilarious review of Showgirls (contained in his book Nobody’s Perfect) in which he says, “Showgirls requires that Berkley spends at least half her time topless, and it could be argued, in the interest not of prurience but of pure dramatic method, that her breasts are more expressive than her face.” It’s very hard to make a good review as memorable.
So are writers too kind when it comes to peer reviewing? This very subject is explored in a great article in The Guardian from 2011 written by Chris Cleave. He says: “Novelists write gentler reviews. Primarily this is because they have felt the sting of a nasty notice and they can’t bear to inflict it on a fellow writer. There is a secondary reason, of course, which is as self-serving as it is self-evident: that what goes around comes around.” True that!