In the second year of English A Level class, at age seventeen, we were handed a book. A slim volume with The Critical Sense printed blandly on the over, our tutor warned us from the beginning, ‘this book is hell.’
And he was right. The most boring book ever written, instructing us on how to criticise poetry and prose. We had to pen essays on the bloody thing for the next eight months. Horrific.
Whether one can learn how to critique by reading and analysing a book is debatable (that might be one of the essays I wrote, come to think). Fact is, in 2016, a *few* years later, Amazon and the internet have made reviewers of all of us.
Authors need five star reviews on Amazon, and lots of them, to sell books. Fair enough.
Award under full marks and reprisals start bleeding through, naming and shaming the new sport.
Music reviews on blog sites and webzines are the same; everything must be declared ace or it’s sucked in cheeks, waggling fingers and passive aggressive sub tweets.
Reviewing is largely a thankless task. Reviewers are reviewed, critics critiqued.
As critics we can only say what we see, hear and feel. The last one is as important as the rest. Puff pieces simply won’t do.
Of course there are always those wanting to make a name for themselves by slaughtering sacred cows, nothing new about that. And giving one measly star on Amazon because a book took 2 days to arrive or you didn’t like the look the postman gave you when he delivered it, is plain daft.
Hey – everyone’s a critic these days.
It’s important that authors, musicians, actors and creatives know that we largely go in desperately wanting to be thrilled. I always want to fall in love.
A book or performance making me happy is one of life’s most beautiful things. I think that’s the same for all of us, pretty much, yes?