Reviews, Word of Mouth, Conversation, & Community (Spiritwalker Monday 20)

Where and how do you discover the books you read and media you watch/consume? How much does word of mouth or reviews play a part as compared to research or relying on past experience?

Do you write reviews? And if you do, what audience do you hope to reach?

Do you read reviews? How do you interact with them?

The process of reviewing (as opposed to the critical essay) has had such an explosion because of the internet that both as a reader who reads and as a writer who gets reviewed I’m fascinated by the process of liking what others like, disliking what others dislike, liking what others dislike, disliking what others like, and the worst reviews of all, those of indifference and of the judgment that a work is trivial, unimportant, and ignorable.

There are many platforms where reviewers are clearly reviewing for other readers, for each other, an ongoing conversation about books both in the largest sense of the reading gestalt (what is fashionable, obscure, elided, needed, and trendy or out of fashion at any given time) and of course of individual titles that a person may want to excoriate or praise.

But I also just heard a story about a writer who was emailed directly by a person who wanted to make sure to tell the writer about how much they (the reader) had disliked the work of that writer which they had read. What is up with that? That so puzzles me–not the disliking because people will not all like (or dislike) the same things, but this odd need to inform the writer so as to . . . to what? What does it accomplish? How does it relate back to the larger sense of conversation? How is this part of a productive conversation?

But just as some reviewers are clearly writing to engage primarily or only with other reviewers and readers, others do seem to want to engage — whether positively or negatively — with the writers. There are so many layers and complexities involved.

I don’t review books but I do like to talk about books I enjoyed. I’m more likely to review film/tv, I suspect because I am not part of that community. At the same time, I have no problem whatsoever with writers who do review; more power to them.

Do you feel like you are part of a larger ongoing discussion of books/media that takes place online (and to a lesser degree off line)? Perhaps that is a question already answered by the fact that you are reading this on a writer’s blog. I feel I am often submerged in this ocean of book discussion, as a participant fishing in from several angles, both the reader and the read.

I have to make decisions about how I am going to interact with reviews of my own work (whether to read or not read, and how or whether to internalize the reactions of readers which can be so diverse), how I approach books/media I’m reading and how much I want to say/converse about them, and how much I engage with reviewers and reviews in general even just as a reader. Like anyone, my opinion may be swayed or my interest piqued in all kinds of ways, some positive and some negative.

Everyone makes these decisions from one day or one month or one year to the next. It is difficult, I think, to say that one works or even reads in true isolation, not now.