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.


aLmYbNeNr said...

You take this very seriously. That's great!

Here's my Booking Through Thursday!

Gramma 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.