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My views on any potentially controversial aspects of book reviewing – as continued from the previous thread HERE – will appear
in the comment stream below as and when I have anything to say.

NB: My own general review philosophy is shown HERE..

22 thoughts on “*

  1. As I have said already, there seems a definite trend in the last year or so against negative book reviewing. Indeed, there seems no point at all in such book reviewing. A single review is the opinion of one person. Often it is the only review that is ever issued about a particular book. If one can praise a book, praise it. If one cannot, keep quiet. That encourages reading.
    NB: This comment effectively relates to my concept of the hothouse, not necessarily to big commercial publishing.

  2. At times the writers complaining about Christopher Priest’s review were unwittingly quoting you word-for-word. Imagine my dismay!

    That aside, in this specific instance I think it was unhealthy how many of them encouraged the reviewed author to see himself as having been bullied by Priest, and worse than bullied. Some of them had just been to the book’s launch party, and share the same publisher, and that may have led to them being a bit over-protective and coming on a bit too strong. But if he plans to spend a lifetime writing books, and thus a lifetime receiving reviews, he would be better off taking bad reviews a bit less personally than that. Like you say, a review is just the opinion of a single person.

    • Yes, Stephen, I agree with much of that, also having noted what you tell me above about the launch party scenario etc.
      I feel any ‘very negative’ book review should be considered on its own specific merits or demerits. Ignored or responded to.

      • Yes, the two who made the biggest fuss about the review – Den Patrick, who thinks reviewers should follow the advice of his Great Aunt Daph, “If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything”, and John Hornor Jacobs, who said of Christopher Priest that “The author that gives a scathing review of another author AT THE SAME PUBLISHER is a fucking idiot” – are both on a forthcoming Gollancz “Class of 2014” panel with the author of the book Priest was reviewing. All they did was draw more attention to what Christopher Priest thought of the book.

  3. As a separate point, the ‘Great Aunt Daph’ analogy may apply in the specific ‘Barricade’ context as an appropriate jibe but I feel it should not necessarily be seen to impugn, by implied ‘collateral damage’, the approach in any other reviewing context.

    • That’s it, there’s a distinction to be made. Readers may choose to adopt that as their approach, for any number of personal reasons, when writing about books. It’s up to them. (Just as it’s up to other readers if they don’t choose to adopt it.) We all get to write about books in the way we choose, so long as we stay within the bounds of the law, and the rules of the venues for which we write. The peculiarity in this situation is the writer suggesting that it should be (or is) a general principle of reviewing, and I don’t think that’s a proposition that stands up to any scrutiny.

      For one thing, reviews help other people get the most out of their money. I don’t post many book reviews on Amazon, but of those that I have, one was of a book that had been scanned but not checked, so it had serious mistakes on almost every page, another was of a book bound in such a way that it fell apart within a week, and a third was of a collected edition of the Oz books where, to fit them all in, the publisher had removed all paragraph breaks, turning each chapter into one long paragraph. No responsible reviewer could fail to mention those things.

  4. Yesterday above, I mentioned “my own evolution of a reviewing philosophy”, mustering, as I have over the last decade*, the evidence (shown publicly) of what I consider to be the optimum from actual examples and argued rationalization – yes, a rationalization together with a parallel synchronicity, rather than a cause-and-effect, derived from my personal ‘spiritualisation’ as evoked by the preternatural nature of literature itself. (I consciously use the word ‘preternatural’ rather than ‘supernatural’).
    Some of the best examples of this personal approach of mine, I feel, are in my many reviews of the fiction in Theaker’s Quarterly Fiction publications themselves.
    But as Stephen says or implies above, everyone must choose, within whatever strictures exist, their own way, what to adopt and what not to adopt. And, for me, this process involves us as reader and as writer and as reviewer and as publisher because, often, each of us acts in some or all of those roles concurrently within this internet-incubated hothouse we call literature or fiction or ‘genre’.
    We must try to differentiate from within that unity of roles? Or we must try to unify from within those differentiations? While bearing in mind that we cannot help acting as one mind: a single, singular, if ever-evolving, belief-system?

    *Longer, if you take into account my stated philosophy behind the nine ‘Nemonymous’ anthologies.

    • (I consciously use the word ‘preternatural’ rather than ‘supernatural’).”
      I wonder why many people seem to believe ostensibly weird things. And so, for my ghost-hunting friends who have fruitlessly (so far) spent their lives hunting for elusive ghosts, perhaps the only real ghosts live within the texture of words.
      Become ghost-catchers not ghost-hunters: allusive, sometimes illusive, but transcending the elusive.

  5. Even I was somewhat taken aback at what Stephen Theaker posted here a few days ago — while addressing ordinary BFS members’ concerns and suggestions on the BFS official forum about the BFS in general. This and some other historic posts of his seem to sit uneasy with the ‘good manners’ high ground of his own “you’ve been willing to abandon any professional courtesy, any politeness,” – words that he threw at me as part of the contested “66 comments” on his TQF site.

    I wonder whether some of Stephen’s posts — including his latest hindsight reference to the ‘joke police’ — are intended to be from his alter ego Howard Phillips, as a form of mitigation.

    • Yes, I observed you had abandoned politeness in a previous situation. That doesn’t mean I think politeness must be maintained at all times – I certainly don’t. My previous criticism was not merely that you had abandoned politeness (and all the rest), but that the reasons for which you had abandoned it were, in my view, selfish and vain. You disagree, of course, and you set out your reasons for disagreeing in the comments on my blog, so that’s that.

      You said you were making an important stand in that thread, so I’m not sure why you seem to want the comments taken offline. But if you do, email me and we can discuss it – if you regret what you said back then, I’m not opposed to you taking your words back.

      As far as the BFS thread goes, there’s no point being too polite about silly ideas, even if I usually try, but I wouldn’t say my extrapolation of the ideas being put forward was particularly rude. Try reading it slowly rather than quickly and you’ll get the tone I was going for. A raised eyebrow drawl rather than an angry rant! The pantomime horror in response was amusing, given its sources, and how astonishingly rude some of them have been to me in the past.

      Maybe someone will be outraged enough to stand against me at the AGM. I’d welcome that – it’s no fun winning elections when you’re the only one standing.

      • Thanks, Stephen.

        This whole historical issue is bigger than any exchange here can cover. My old pointers to it are here.
        Observing, as you say, or perceiving rudeness does not necessarily make it rudeness, I agree.
        I don’t think I have ever been rude or discourteous on the net or, for that matter, in life itself. But that is for others to judge. I don’t wish to appear holier than thou.
        You also questioned my integrity at that time. It was that particular post I wanted deleting or retracting. But, because you once claimed publicly that ‘we both went nuts’ in those 66 comments, it is probably best to delete the whole thing. However, I do not believe I went ‘nuts’ in it.
        Regarding the latest incident, I was merely taken aback and felt that your response sat uneasily with your earlier comments. And the sincere points being made by ordinary BFS members didn’t deserve such a response, joke or not. But I do appreciate humour – and humour can be easily misinterpreted.
        You know my feelings. I do not intend to email you directly on this issue.
        Hoping for a better internet relationship and that we may be able to meet up one day,
        Des.

  6. Nuts only in the sense that we both stayed up half the night writing blog comments, not in the sense that we said anything we didn’t mean – I didn’t, at least. I stand by every word I said, and reading it back I’m always impressed by how well I said it! If you don’t wish to retract your comments, I’m happy to leave them online, together with my responses. It makes for a fascinating read.

    I don’t agree as to the BFS thread – if you demand silly things in a pompous, entitled way, don’t expect a serious response! – but there’s no need for us to agree on it.

    • Well, sadly, there seems currently no point in continuing this thread.
      All human beings make mistakes and naturally I have made my fair share of them from youth to age that no doubt touch upon the ‘integrity’ that is me. But why you should have wanted, in a public place, to mention integrity so glibly within the list of other accusations, especially about someone you have not met, is a mystery to me.

      I wish you well with TQF etc.

  7. I didn’t say it glibly, I said it very seriously because you had just spent a lengthy comment thread convincing me of it. You attacked our editorial integrity, and I concluded that such an attack reflected badly on your own integrity. We both got to have our say, we both thought we were in the right, and we both still do. Anyone who reads the thread now can decide for themselves who they think was right, which is what you were so keen on.

    More generally, if you want to have “a better internet relationship” with someone, try going more than a few weeks without writing about them on your blog. I don’t think you’ve been mentioned by name on the TQF blog since August 2011 (except in the BFA list), whereas I seem to get namechecked on your blogs monthly, if not more often. I know I’m fascinating, but it’s a bit much.

    You’re like a moth to a flame. Or a boy pulling pigtails. We had an argument, which you began, three years ago. It’s time to move on. Let it go. Why not see how long you can go without writing about me on your blogs? Do you think you could make it to Christmas?

    • I don’t think we shall ever agree on the reality of this matter and, indeed, I could refer to how many times you have mentioned me by innuendo or directly – on the Facebook banner when you had one, in your three or or four book editorials, on your TQF blog banner…
      I never questioned your integrity or your TQF site’s integrity, merely my need to respond to a set of circumstances as I saw it, which you tried to deny me by a bombardment of criticism, as you still do above.
      Earlier today I re-opened the passworded sites to public view as a historical archive, while expressing, as you also do above, a wish to forget the whole thing.

      • Strictly in response to four public tweets by Stephen that followed the above, I can confirm that I am not ‘implacably hostile’ to him. In fact, the “50 comments” thread on the TQF site here (when Stephen ‘interviewed’ me) gives another picture of events, one that I found fairer than the “66 comments”.

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