Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Turnabout Is Fair Play: On Reviewing and Being Reviewed

Here's the basic formula of reviewing: a bunch of people, frequently talented, sometimes brilliant, strive for weeks, months, or years, often at great sacrifice, and then I show up and judge them. It doesn't seem fair.

And yet I don't plan to stop. I believe that reviewers can make a contribution. Minimally, we offer publicity; maximally, we add something valuable to the conversation. At least we try (many of us, anyway).

The thing is, I know what it feels like to get bad reviews. I know how easy it is to remember the negatives and forget the positives. So, in the interest of full disclosure, I think it's time to share some of the bad reviews my book, The Lesbian Sex Book (later updated as The New Lesbian Sex Book) received.
"Necessary but dull."
"The humor is somewhat simplistic, even embarrassing at times."
"If you have ever had lesbian sex, there will be little for you to learn from Wendy Caster's book."
"Unintentionally funny in places [with] a distinct lack of irony."
"Full of . . . useless quirky hints to spice up your love life. It's American--need I say more." (From Dublin.)
(I love that last one--not only can't I write, but I disgraced my entire country.)

The book also received some good reviews and sold pretty well. Yet it's the bad reviews I remember, nearly 20 years later. (And, sigh, I don't think the bad reviews are particularly unfair.)

I would love to hear what other people have to say about the role of reviewers. Comments welcome!


macrogers said...

Since my play was your most recent review, I want to take this opportunity to say that I never take any criticisms from you or others as a personal affront. I've been reading your stuff long enough to know how deeply you engage with the material you review, and it's clear that you're driven by a love of the art form. I look forward to your reviews and I value them.

Wendy Caster said...

That means a lot coming from you, Mac.