What’s Reviewing For?

4 thoughts on “What’s Reviewing For?”

  1. If a reviewer finds herself “not taking to” a collection she intends to review, how does she work around that? I’m responding to your final line “As a reader, I might not take to a certain collection…,” as it raised an interesting question about books you don’t particularly like. I’m interested in your process for stepping over the barrier of not connecting with a work you might want to review. How does a person write “a pervasive, thoughtful, nuanced reading” of something that doesn’t spark in their minds? Or, put a different way maybe, how does the “thumbs-down” review fit into this model?

    1. Thanks for your reply, Hippopanonymous. A few things do the trick for me: I find and read all the writer’s previous work, I spend more time with the book (read it again! and yet a third/fourth/fifth time!), I do closer readings of the poems and really pull them apart to see how they’re made. I do this whether I’ve liked a book or not, though. Never have I come up short by digging deeper. “Not taking to” a work is always an initial, knee-jerk reaction for me. Strictly tertiary. The more time I spend (a luxury sometimes, of course), the more I end up seeing and the more I have to say about a book, as a result.

      I can see how a thumbs-down might feel like the more genuine response, but I don’t cleave to that, personally. As I say above, I don’t put much stock in a reviewer’s opinion, and, when I do find myself writing that I like a book or don’t like a book, I find that I run out of things to say very quickly.

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