The Honest Book Reviewer Conundrum
Who is more qualified to judge the craftsmanship of something than another craftsman? So who is more qualified to review a book of poetry than another poet? But the literary community is small and intimate; especially the poetic community, and writers have big and easily bruised egos.
What does one do if sent a book to review that one thinks is really bad, but the author is a friend and colleague? Is honesty always the best policy? White lies can be useful. If you’re a poet, and your daughter shows you her first attempts at writing poetry, no one can fault you for being a bit too generous with your praise, but then you’re not publicly recommending it to those who regularly read poetry.
Writers often review each other’s work, and it may not be a good tradition, despite the fact that they know the craft. Filmmakers don’t moonlight as movie reviewers. The respected reviewers are film aficionados. The serious moviegoer is quite qualified to be an objective reviewer. Film critics and filmmakers are two separate communities that have little contact with each other. This isn’t as true of book reviewers and writers. (This is especially true regarding poetry, where the readership is small and poets over-represented.)
It is no wonder that the writing community sometimes seems like a very disputatiously and dysfunctional family. Ah, but at least the public spats are very literate and entertaining. Here are 50 writers saying nasty things about other writers.