October 18, 2007
7 Reasons I Write Book Reviews
Criticism, that fine flower of personal expression in the garden of letters. ~ Joseph Conrad
I felt that with the growing (an appreciated) success of this blog. That it was about time I did a little explaining about why I do what I do. (Doo-doo. See? I can be funny.) Thereís a lot to cover so either bear with me, or stop reading now and save yourself the time. (I mean, you could be playing squash right now, and wouldnít that be better?)
For those of you who have decided to stay, thank you. Letís get down to the nitty-gritty.
Reason #1: I am opinionated.
Really opinionated. And if there is one topic you can get me talking about for hours, it is fantasy fiction. Iíve been reading it since I was very young, and have read a wide range of its authors and subgenres. So what better place to express those opnions than a blog that all the world can see. (This goes hand in hand with my vanity, which is profound. I mean, its pretty vain to think anyone actually cares about your opinion, right?) So hence the blog and the title, Grasping for the Wind keeps me humble every time I see it displayed at the top of every page in this blog.
Reason #2: I got bored.
In my workplace, there can be times of great busyness, and times that are really slow (like the Friday afternoon when I wrote this). There are only so many websites you can visit before you get bored of surfing, so I thought I might contribute to the web instead of being a passive observer. And fantasy fiction is what I like and what I care about, so I began to write book reviews.
Reason #3: Francis Schaeffer made me feel bad.
ďAmericans don't read enough (that's true) and Americans read too much (that's true too). What I mean is that many don't read enough material to really be informed, and yet they read too much because what they do read they often do not stop to assimilate and think through. They whiz through it and get what I call a first-order experience, a sort of mystical feeling, not a genuine understanding. I urge you, with all my soul, in such a day as ours to really, truly learn to read." ~ Francis Schaeffer
Okay, so if reading means thinking through and assimilating material, then writing a book review, something more than a summary, something that really digs in to the writing would be a good thing, right? Of course, I donít think Mr. Schaeffer meant fantasy fiction when he wrote those words (I suspect he wanted me to read more classics, actually) but to each his own. This is my world, and I am going to think about it critically.
Reason #4: Free Books
Mercenary as it may seem, I like getting free books from publishers and authors. Without them, many of the books I have recently enjoyed, I never would have read. Iím not a rich man, so free books is a great way to stay up on what is going on in fantasy, and getting introduced to some really great authors.
Reason #5: Because it helps readers.
Criticism, as it was first instituted by Aristotle, was meant as a standard of judging well; the chiefest part of which is to observe those excellencies which delight a reasonable reader. ~ John Dryden
I get a lot of hits everyday from people who land on my book reviews. Most of the time they donít leave comments, but I know they went away thinking that maybe next time they go to the bookstore, they just might pick up the book they saw here.
Reason #6: Because it helps authors.
Well, I'm not a critic, I'm just a worker. So, I'm always grateful for anything the critics say - good or bad. ~ Mandy Patinkin
Nothing is more apt to deceive us than our own judgment of our work. We derive more benefit from having our faults pointed out by our enemies than from hearing the opinions of friends. ~ Leonardo da Vinci
Reviewing new works, old works out of print, debut authors is a helpful thing to do. Why? Even with the growing popularity of fantasy fiction, it is still not considered an acceptable genre for writers of any real talent. Yet there are so many great authors being discovered everyday. This genre spawns so many innovators and creative minds in it that to dismiss fantasy as ďescapismĒ or simply ďtrashĒ shows the small minds of many critics. So my reviews, interviews, etc., if they can help showcase these talents and their hard work, make the effort worthwhile.
Reason #7: Itís just plain fun.
Fantasy is an exercise bicycle for the mind. It might not take you anywhere, but it tones up the muscles that can. Of course, I could be wrong. ~ Terry Pratchett
That seems self-evident. Reading speculative fiction is something I enjoy. Iím unlikely to stop doing it anytime soon (my hope is that I will be re-reading a favorite on my deathbed), so why not share the fun?