I don’t write reviews. I don’t write reviews because I don’t like writing reviews. Maybe if I got paid to write reviews I would write them and eventually enjoy myself. But in general I’d rather write fan mail or get drunk with my friends and talk about the books I love or the ones that disappointed me. The process of writing a review feels a little like having sex with someone you barely know under the glare of a bare bulb on a hot afternoon in an apartment with no AC after having scarfed a bunch of Mexican food. You know, gross! Embarrassing.
Maybe it’s because I get too intimate with what I read. The book is a person with whom I am involved. Kissing and telling, etc.
I read reviews only rarely. I don’t typically seek them out, but will idle over one en route to somewhere else, for example. I have read some goddamn beautiful reviews. Paeans, or funny eruptive little things. And of course I’ve read some awful reviews, mean-spirited or pretentious or kiss-assy or underdone or overzealous. It’s hard, I think, to get a review right, and I have a lot of respect for people who can and do. I think that they must be very generous, very self-assured writers, who want to celebrate a work without expecting to be celebrated in return.
Some people say that the best kind of review is the kind that is “a work of art” in and of itself, some juicy and fantastic piece of writing that makes you want to read not only the subject of the review, but a whole book by the reviewer. This makes me uncomfortable. If I temporarily lose my mind and seek out a tour guide when I visit an exhibit, I want the tour guide to be like some wonderful plasma between me and the exhibit, allowing me not only special access to it, but actual entry, as though I could be oozed osmotically through the guide and into the work. If I temporarily lose my mind and enlist the services of a tour guide, I don’t want an ancillary tour of the fucking tour guide.
Another review-ish thing that makes me uncomfortable is the too-frequent use of the word “derivative.” What isn’t derivative? I think the new word should be arrivative.