Friday, November 21, 2008

Why So Critical?

Exploring negativity in reviews, Dave White blogs:

...I'm curious about the people who like to tear things apart and don't look for enjoyment. What's the point of being so critical?

And are there people out there who still just want entertainment?

I commented:

I think it's safe to say uncritical readers vastly outnumber the critical ones, so there will always be work for artists, etc.

I'm critical by nature because I'm curious about how and why writing (and other stuff) affects me the way it does, and I'm always looking for ways to articulate that. People just looking for enjoyment probably wouldn't think that far into it.

We all have stuff we're absolutely fannish about, but I try to read or watch with an open mind. I want to be entertained, but at the same time I can't set aside my basic idea of what's good. In writing, does the author show command of the language or does he consistently use more words than he needs? Is the story moving at the right pace? When a writer does a really good job, I think about the nuts and bolts after, not while I'm reading, but I still think about them.

This much said, I read reviews to tell whether I'd be interested. If I am interested, I don't put much stock in the reviewer's opinion, preferring to make up my own mind.

Earlier in the same post, Dave writes:

For instance, Robert B. Parker gets a lot of flack for his later novels. I, however, do my best to enjoy them for what they are. A visit with an old friend, some good one liners and an overall entertaining, light story. I expect differently from say... a Lehane. But I still just try adjust my brain and my standards for each story to get the maximum enjoyment out of it.

I commented:

Parker was one of the first mystery writers I really enjoyed. The Spenser series set much of the standard for what I've read since. To me, the early novels weren't light stories. They managed to enlighten while they entertained, and every word seemed necessary.

Now, sure, Parker has aged, but his faculties haven't fallen off to the point where I expect less. When he pads dialogue, when he takes shortcuts in description, I think he's being lazy. I'd been disappointed in his work roughly the past five years. I read Now and Then recently and didn't find it rambling or repetitive at all. Parker hit all the marks to make Spenser present to me, which just proves he still can, and that many recent efforts were less than his best.

Why settle for less from a writer who can deliver more? Why expect more from a lesser-known writer?

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