Tuesday, April 21, 2009
Just Showing Up
Occasionally I've been asked to read a book and write a review about it Whenever that happens I'm flattered, but also a little hesitant. I have this feeling readers appreciate a book review when it finds fault with the writer and what he or she has created. It seems to me, sometimes, that a reviewer is not doing critical thinking about the book at hand, unless he can somehow find fault with it or at least make suggestions for improvement. I think I've done maybe six or eight reviews and I can't recall finding anything to publicly complain about in any of those books. In the first place I don't feel as though I have the right to criticize another writer's creation. His world and my world are different and there's no way I'm going to be able to put myself inside his head and have different thoughts. For me writing a review is a chance to tell what the book is about and indicate why someone besides me might want to make the effort to read it. Usually there are some good reasons. I'm especially fond of reviewing a new writer's first book. I see it as a chance to be encouraging and perhaps draw some readers to the new book. We joke around these days about some of the lousy work ethics we experience in the market place, and we note that ninety percent of succeeding at a job is just in showing up. For that reason alone the new writer deserves to hear some priase, because he has "showed up." And when your writing fiction, poetry, history, and non-fiction just showing up takes courage. Courage and persistance and determination. I know because I've done it. I was very lucky when someone reviewed my book and wrote favorably about it. They were kind with their remarks and gave the book a nice endorsement. Now I try to return that favor. I've reviewed other books that are antiques. Books that have gathered dust for years on a shelf or in a cardboard box and its been my good fortune to unearth the book and discover it again. That's fun also. To write a review about some long forgotten or minor book and try to convince people it might be worth reading again. Sometimes its surprising how current some old works are and how they too have something valuable to say about our lives today. There's more then enough angst, anger and rage in the world these days. Popular TV "reality" shows make a virtue out of voting people "off the island." Drivers honk their horns and flash hand singles at other drivers out of some mistaken idea that they may be better drivers or know more then the person in front. Audiences shout cat calls and hoots when a non-descript person steps out on to the glaring stage. People have drawn an impression of that person before they've even heard her speak or sing. I think that's as true in entertainment as it is in schools and in business. So you won't read any critical rants or diatribes about books from me. I figure we're all in this together and there's room in the lifeboat for everyone.