I am not a fan

April 16, 2012 § Leave a comment

Let me state it one more time.  I am not a fan.

I do not squee! when I receive a review copy in the mail.  I glance at the books and will read through just enough to determine whether or not I will be able to review it within two months of receiving it, but I make no promises, nor do I feel guilt when I receive a book that does not interest me.

I do not wait with bated breath for awards to be announced.  I believe that due to the proliferation of awards, over a variety of genres, that several mediocre works get nominated.  Unless I have had a bad prior experience with an author, I will consider them, but when I repeatedly don’t enjoy their output, I have no qualms about saying that I will not read nor will I review particular books.

I am a critic at heart, trained to be one, albeit in history and not precisely in Languages and Literature (although I have a significant amount of university coursework in both).  I distrust personal appeals and when I think I am too close to an author as to not be able to rip into his/her work if warranted, I will not review them in a public space.

I find it odd when some take umbrage when I note perceived deficiencies in various genres/award categories.  I am no insider; whether these awards succeed or fail is no concern of mine.  I am happy for those that win, but that does not mean that if Author X wrote a deficient work that I will not blast (as needed) his/her work if it were to win a particular award/s.

I am quite aware of the marketing aspects that go along with reviewing.  Doesn’t mean I have to receive copies (if any are sent, it is with the hope that I will consider them rather than the expectation that I will review them positively) nor do I have to worry overmuch about if promo copies and advance blurbs will sway me.  I try to dislike as many fictions as I can, but will permit the text to win me over, even if I may think the author smells of elderberries.

I value some opinions more than others.  If you cannot express your opinion well, whether you be an author trying to convey a book’s message or someone commenting on another’s work, then I will not value your opinion as much as another who does do this.

I do not aim for “objectivity,” for I believe that to be as much of a chimera as “relativity” in assessing value.  Value is closely tied to perceptions, but perceptions don’t usually shift 180° between works and/or authors.  If a lot of sentences are not technically adequate, if the characterizations feel stilted, if there are no discernible thematic elements, if the parts are greater than the whole, then I will be unforgiving even if the work at hand is by someone whose previous works I enjoyed.

Again, I am not a fan.  I am an evaluator whose opinions can be swayed with evidence, yet as empathetic as I may be toward people, I find that there are many good, some very good works that I self-select, but very, very few works that will be re-read twenty years from now when I will be mostly a different person.  Those rare works are the ones worth focusing on, not on whether or not it is “fair” that a competent fiction is questioned for being on an awards shortlist.

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