Friday, February 10, 2012

Literary Blog Hop: Writing About Myself

It's been a while, but this weekend I'm hanging out with the Literary Blog Hop.  Wanna hang with me? You should! I'd love to know what you think about this week's topic:

Literary Blog HopIn the epilogue for Fargo Rock CityChuck Klosterman writes:
"It's always been my theory that criticism is really just veiled autobiography; whenever someone writes about a piece of art, they're really just writing about themselves."
Do you agree?

I don't agree with the insinuation that every criticism, review, or critique is written with the ulterior motive of talking about themselves.  That's silliness.

However, even with a critical distance between function and feeling, a review is still personal.  There may be no mention of 'feelings', the review or critique may indeed feel objective, it may be fair and honest, but make no mistake: it's personal.  By its very nature, a review or criticism is subject to the reviewer's personality and experiences.  Every opinion is. Each reading experience is unique to itself.

Even the processes of logic and literary criticism are subject to your knowledge, experiences, and preferences.

The question isn't whether there should be a balance between the personal and professional, but what is a good balance for your tastes and purposes.

I've never been one to find much enjoyment in distilling any art form until it is only an assortment of functional components.  To take the magic out of art is to take the oxygen out of the air.  You're left with something useless.
“Writing is magic, as much the water of life as any other creative art. The water is free. So drink. Drink and be filled up.”  ― Stephen King
For me? There's a reason I read more book blogs than professional reviews.  I like to know a bit of who you are--without that personal touch I have no real reason to trust your opinion.  The technical stuff (plot, pace, character development, writing quality and enjoyability) is important, but without any personality or background about the reading experience, it tends to fall flat.

Have you found your balance?  You probably know what type of reviews you like to read--are they the same style as how you try to write?


  1. I think this is what makes blogging actually difficult. You put so much of yourself into a review. You are worried about what your friends are going to think of you after they read the review. It's interesting. Certain things jump out at you in a book because of your personal experience, and that colors your review to a certain extent. But, truly don't publishers really want to know what a different demographic of reader likes and dislikes?

  2. So well put! I agree that we don't review so that we can just talk about ourselves, but that what we felt inevitably creeps into reviews because, well, how could it not? I also agree that blog reviews tend to be better than professional ones, just because often, you get to know the blogger and their tastes, and so think that you're prettty likely to like the same books!

  3. I like your point about the personal touch, and the comment about book recommendations. I'd never really thought of it like that before, but if you get to know a reviewer and know you have similar taste in books you would be more inclined to trust their opinion in a review. That's certainly true in my case! In which case criticism as veiled autobiography is actually beneficial.

  4. Wonderful topic and wonderful answer here, Melody. I agree -- it's always personal to some extent, though there are some writers who prefer to be super objective (insofar as that's possible). I also prefer blogs because I do prefer to relate to the person writing the review (or reaction, or whatever).

  5. I agree with you, to some extent. The personal cannot be entirely eliminated from a review, but I also feel that bloggers and critics are not at all the same. Readers should have an emotional response to what they read, and I even think bloggers should include themselves in their reviews (as you say), but it is the critic's job to minimize this aspect. Criticism leads one to study literature, rather than just read it and respond to it emotionally--something most people are not fond of doing. I guess you'd have to be a super nerd like me to actually enjoy literary and art criticism. But I like your argument and enjoyed reading it. Thank you for posting!


I'd love to hear what you have to say, leave a comment!