Well it appears that the first copy of my first book has found it’s way into the hands of a reader:
I can’t wait to see what people think of it. I know that a few reviews are currently being written and will begin appearing soon. I’ll link to them as soon as they emerge. It’s a little nerve-wracking and a lot exciting to finally be about to see what readers and critics make of the collection.
On the subject of reviews, I read this interesting New York Times Bookends piece earlier this week, which asks the question Do We Really Need Negative Book Reviews? seemingly inspired by the recent decision of new BuzzFeed books editor, Isaac Fitzgerald, to institute a positive-only book review policy.
I have to say that I agree with both Francine Prose and Zoe Heller that negative reviews on books sites and in newspapers are necessary to ensure a proper critical appreciation of published work. How can you trust a review site or newspaper if they say everything is fabulous and ignore everything else. Refusing to negatively review a book, as Zoe Heller states, means ‘banishing it, without explanation, from public notice.’ I know that, however hard it might be to read, I’d rather receive some bad reviews than my book be ignored. A good critical review, however negative, must by definition at least present the reasons behind the reviewer’s dislike of the work.
I also listened to Hilary Mantel talking about reading negative reviews and the possibility of work being misunderstood. I like her pragmatic approach to such occurrences. She is basically of the mind that so long as the reviewer gets the basics of the book right in the review, they are entitled to their critical opinion of the work, however negative. as for being misunderstood, she quite beautifully answers that one by stating that ‘you can’t staple yourself to the book’ and explain it. to each and every reader. To her mind, and I am paraphrasing from her responses in The Writing Life audio, you put the book out in the world and have to take the rough with the smooth.
To be honest, I’m looking forward to seeing what folk think of my first collection of short fiction. Good or bad. But hopefully, y’know, good. And as and when the bad ones come along, I’ll take some solace in the ever wise words of one of the truly great writers who took his own fair share of critical knocks:
‘Any reviewer who expresses rage and loathing for a novel is preposterous. He or she is like a person who has put on full armor and attacked a hot fudge sundae.’ – Kurt Vonnegut
What do you think? Are negative reviews necessary?