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richardderus

Expendable Mudge Muses Aloud

Why I write reviews

The Case of the Gilded Fly - Edmund Crispin

One of the 800-plus reviews I have left on Goodreads drew an interesting conversation about the process of reviewing books. I rated the first Gervase Fen mystery as a 2.5* read, reviewing it with this (full review reproduced here):

My Review: Tedious, fusty, and supercilious.

 

Well, that about sums that up.

 

 

Then along comes someone with a made-up Goodreads username:

 

PERSON: I agree {with your review of this book}, mostly. Why rate "ok" if not? I'm debating between 1* or 2* myself right now, so question is serious.

 

I've been trolled an awful lot by nastygrams from sock puppets, by people wanting to "engage in debate" (aka make me see how wrong I am to have my particular opinion), by former friends making an effort to assure me I'm the world's least worthwhile reviewer, so as often as not I ignore this kind of leading post. This time, I didn't.

 

ME: I rated it 2.5* because it's not a *bad* book, just tediously predictable for me. I found the style annoyingly arch, but that's a matter of taste. On my own scale, a 1* book is one that is truly just *bad* and people need to be warned away from it. I don't feel that way about this book.

 

That would, for most trolls, be enough to get the flames burning. So then whoever it is sent this:

 

PERSON: Good point put me back pondering dithering all over again.

 

Hmmm. So I've just posted this response, and look forward to seeing what comes next:

 

ME: It's all subjective, this rating dodge. It's never really easy to justify putting a judgment on a book, or a TV show, or a work of art; after all, who cares what another person thinks of them when what counts is what we ourownselves think of them?

Plenty of people, myself included, don't have unlimited time to devote to enjoying the many wonderful things there are to enjoy in this life. I use reviews by review sources I've got reason to trust to narrow down my field of operation.

 

I learn to trust them by comparing our opinions on things we've both reviewed. At about 70-75% similar, I learn the most from a person's opinions, by making interesting discoveries or getting my own opinions challenged by a new and intriguing perspective.

Above that, it's all about having fun reading that person's take...not too many of those. But I treasure them when I find them.

 

But that going back and forth, debating with yourself about what to say, what to tell people, why you think a particular thing about a book, a movie, a play, a painting...that's the part that makes writing about what others have done so satisfying and such a worthwhile exercise.

And that's where we stand.