Sunday 5 August 2012

"Going Negative" Going the Distance

Years after it was published—and caused an uproar—Jason Guriel's defense of negative criticism is still getting mentions. There's one here, and another here. Seth Abramson uses Guriel's piece as a jumping-off point for a thoughtful, if skeptical look at negative reviews:
The question is, do such reviews serve the community of working poets, which is primarily invested in, well, how not to become bored by poetry? Which is primarily interested in finding new and exciting work to fuel its own creative energies? Which is excited—not chagrined—to read a wide range of reviews looking at a vast array of poetries now extant in America, rather than reading conflicting scholarly accounts of the same small number of authors time after time? I really don't think negative reviewing serves that community or those interests. I think the "negative review" largely serves a series of reading interests which no longer exist.

1 comment:

Jeff said...

Negative reviews do have a usefulness but they're better to read, in my experience, if the book itself energizes a reviewer to make a case for or defence of something at the same time. Sadly, that isn't always possible.

A writer once dropped me an email saying how s/he didn't think writing negative reviews would help my career. (Coincidentally, it was of that writer's book.) Writers can be too much like autocrats in denying free speech or contrary opinions.

--Jeff Bursey
author of Verbatim: A Novel