Monday, April 10, 2006

Ben Yagoda on NYT book reviewer Michiko Kakutani

at Slate.

1 comment:

  1. I thought the "rollicking delight" thing was inadvertent ambiguity/copyediting glitch rather than a misread; I think he's being ironic there, but I agree that it doesn't read quite right.

    A few thoughts on reviewing:

    1. I came to it late. I felt like I had to earn the authority (I feel that this is gendered, I wish I had felt more confident earlier about it) to mark out my opinion, and I still always have an easier time reviewing non-fiction than fiction.

    2. The Joyce Carol Oates quotation a few days ago about avoiding negative reviews spoke to me; though as I said when I was posting on this topic a few weeks ago, I do feel the need sometimes to speak out against a generally lauded book that strikes me as being either aesthetically or ethically dubious.

    3. I feel that the culture of book-reviewing is on the verge of massive change. Traditional books coverage (well, arts coverage more generally) seems to me in many ways less interesting than what you can read on a well-informed blog. I like the personal voice, the opinions, the likely approach of sampling rather than summarizing. I feel that a traditional novel review (some summary, some evaluation, possibly only tiny snippets of quotation) is pretty much useless to me in terms of telling me whether it's a book I want to read. I want to get a sense of a reviewer's tastes and how they relate to mine, then to find reviewers I trust; but in the culture of freelance reviewers/"get a novelist to review thing x" this is harder to do. (Of course you trust a novelist you admire rather than a novelist you don't, but tastes really do differ in this sense, andit's not the same as reading a reviewer whose tastes you've come to understand over the years.)

    4. So I think the reviewer's credo I'm coming to embrace involves quotation rather than summary, it involves more attention to style/sensibility and less to plot, it involves incorporating (where possible) a more essayistic first-person voice. For a start, anyway. But I've still got a lot to learn.