The Critical Sense

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?



4 thoughts on “The Critical Sense

  1. Absolutely Cath. And I hate this obsession with the review system. Yes, having plenty of reviews shows you’ve been read, but a wide range of varying comments and stars is healthy. We don’t all like the same things. There are books, films and music I don’t like that others simply adore. It’s a subjective topic. It’s crazy to think you can get across the board five stars. It’s more realistic to see varied reviews.

  2. Speaking from the perspective of a newly published writer *needing* the reviews to play Amazon’s strangely structured game I have to say how refreshing I find your words, Cath. I wish it were otherwise & that an honest, three star review was still considered worthy & not, as Amazon insist, ‘critical’ as in the opposite of ‘positive.’
    When people smile at me & tell me they loved my book, it’s worth any number of Amazon stars.
    I want to be delighted by everything in my life, from a book or a theatre performance to a pair of classy earrings! And I’ll smile at the woman wearing the earrings & tell her she looks fabulous too. xXx

    1. Classy earrings get five stars, every time 😉 (I myself am “banned” from reviewing stuff on Amazon that is written/produced by Facebook friends, they remove my reviews on there pretty sharpish. It’s all bonkers).

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