Thursday, June 24, 2010

More news than the news...

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Do you read book reviews? Do you let them change your mind about reading/not reading a particular book?

Do I read reviews? Are you kidding? I write them, I had better read them. I read book reviews, theatre reviews, film reviews, music reviews, visual arts reviews and I read both the finer art of professional criticism and the opinions of my fellow enthusiastic amateurs. I read them for three reasons: 1) to become a better critic and reader myself; 2) to offer some structure and alternative point of view for my own opinion (if I have already read or seen the piece) or to advise me as to whether to read it or see it or listen to it, but with performing arts I do this less often. As I have been a professional in the field I often already know what I want to see and might save a review to read after I've seen it. Although, when I am visiting another city and want to see something I most certainly read the papers and the Time Out equivalent for suggestions. With books, I am interested in the recommendations of my fellow bloggers. That's part of the fun of being in this community, and over the years I have learned whose opinion is most often like my own. 3) Most importantly, I read reviews as a news source - a zeitgeist meter. The book review is the first section I go for in the Sunday paper. If I'm spending time in England, I'll read The London Review of Books. Once I'm done with graduate school, I will renew my subscription to The New York Review of Books. The books that are written in a time, and the opinion of contemporary writers and thinkers about them are a record of what our society is thinking about. I consider it more news than the news. I certainly trust it over any American television news source which, these days, is little more than packaged entertainment. Just one more "reality" television show. So, indeed yes, I read reviews and am glad to be influenced by them.


Amber at The Musings of ALMYBNENR said...

You take this very seriously. That's great!

Here's my Booking Through Thursday!

Gigi Ann said...

WOW! I like your answer, bookeywookey. I like that name as well. I was spellbound.

I read reviews also.

Alayne said...

Great answer. Mine is at The Crowded Leaf.

Marce said...

Sounds like you are a professional viewer of reviews :-)

Here is mine.

Lori said...

Nice response! Here's mine

Criticlasm said...

I often have this conversation with a friend, since we both get people who say things like "don't critics like anything?" There's an odd perception in this country that talking about a piece of art intelligently somehow instrinsically lessens it, or paints the reviewer/critic as a curmudgeon, know-it-all, or the like.
In reality, criticism is a strategy for enjoying something even more. If I like something, it's great to share why I like it - it's something I generally have a compulsion to do. If I dislike something, then it's a strategy for staying present and figuring out what I don't like or what could be better. Reading other's reviews is an extension of this. It's a conversation I'm having with another person about their reaction, especially if I know the critic pretty well. It's also a point of connection with other readers/viewers to begin a conversation about something.
And it's the only real reason I subscribe to the New Yorker - they're critics are historians as well.

Ted said...

Yes, Cc, I agree. The body of criticism is like a conversation among the opinions that exist in one's society. I think that negative conation you speak of is more prevalent here in the U.S. where the idea that a glaze of chirpy happiness painted over conflicted or negative feelings is always better. It turns everyone into a superficial cheer leader.

Marce - Hardly that!

Thanks, Gramma Ann. Judging from your response you are a new visitor, so welcome.