Saturday, October 09, 2010
Why is this such an easy game to get sucked into?
I guess we all like drama. If it isn't something that involves us personally we're only too happy to inject ourselves into the conversation as we madly dash over to the offending post and give our "I think" thoughts on the subject. I've done this more times than I'd like to admit.
But there's something very personal about review blogging. We all have our own take on how it should be done and when someone attacks us personally (though I have not been the recipient in this particular game of late), well, we take it personally. It's a strange phenomenon from my point of view. I know those who consider themselves the "elite" in our little fishbowl look upon my willingness to do giveaways with disdain; claiming that people like me are too eager to please the publishers and act as little more than advertising arms of those organizations. That's a tough critique for me to take because I fund almost all the giveaways I do here out of my own pocket. So it costs me money to be criticized... Tell me why I do this again?
I do get the hesitation to do reviews based on books sent to us by the publisher. Once the faucet is turned on and you start getting freebies, it's easy to get sucked into the desire-to-please cycle that keeps the books coming. I dance around this myself, though I have occasionally been known to tear-to-shreds a book that was sent to me. I've come to the conclusion that if I don't ask for a book (and I almost never do) then I don't have an obligation to be nice. I don't like to savage someone's work and I try to be respectful and honest; which is what I think almost all the reviewers in our circle are trying to do.
Another accusation that is frequently thrown at people like myself is that we're just not doing it right. I don't know whose rules we're supposed to be following exactly but I've repeatedly read that I should be writing more in-depth reviews-- with quotes and analysis of the subtext of the book. I hear that I'm not doing my job if the review is less than 1000 words long. To this I say-- are you kidding me? I've actually done reviews for print publications for years and I've been told repeatedly to keep it at 250-500 words because the reader doesn't have the attention span to read something longer. When I've been paid for the job I was told anything longer just meant I was wordy. I've taken it as a luxury as a self-made reviewer that I could be wordy if I want to. But let's be honest, who the heck has time to do a master's thesis every time they review a fantasy novel? I frequently hit the 1000 word mark and wonder if I lack the talent to make it more succinct. I guess you can't win in this particular game.
The rub in all of this is that the bloggers who have the most elitist attitudes make their own rules and feel they can enforce them on the rest of us. They make arbitrary declarations and put the rest of us on the defensive, and I'm left to wonder why. Whenever I see a post that piously outlines the criteria I should be following, whether on an author or reviewer site, I pretty much want to flip that person the middle-finger and childishly ask who made you God of all things blogging?
What's really silly in this whole exercise is that it would be incredibly boring if we all did it the same way. I could pour myself into the mold of the "intellectual" bloggers and follow their "rules." I could leave out the giveaways and take the fun out of everything and be dour and judgmental in my reviewing. I could declare paranormal fiction beneath me and scoff at anything that doesn't reek of erudition. How long do you figure that would last before my audience fled and I took the blog down due to my own lack of interest?
The thing is, I can do scholarly. I have a college degree and have a decent pedigree that includes study abroad and minor in Japanese. But after many years spent in classrooms and libraries pouring over assignments and drowning in academia, I'm not interested anymore. I like that my blog is on the lighter side. I don't get paid for this, so I might as well do what's fun for me. And something tells me there are a LOT more bloggers out there who can relate to my point-of-view than the high-brow stance.
The bottom line is that we are all masters of our own domain. Don't like the way we do things? Then you are welcome to leave and keep your opinions to yourself. The bald fact is that if you don't like my blog, chances are I'm not frequenting yours. Your snark might fill some needy corner of your soul but I'm pretty sure the rest of the world can read the insecurity and need for attention all that lashing out is really about. I think if the bloggers who like to engage in such back-and-forth were to stop and examine their motives before they posted-- I mean a real self-examination-- they'd be shocked at the self absorption going on. But I don't suppose this kind of thing grows out of self awareness and I'm sure the look-at-me kind of thing will never end as long as we have the safe anonymity of the internet.
But then, here I go. Having my look-at-me moment for the day.
But I'm not naming any names.