Suspend Your Disbelief

Posts Tagged ‘reviewing’

Shop Talk |

Sticks and Stones: On Harsh Reviews

Does anyone actually believe that words can never hurt you? Come on, people—we’re writers. If there’s anything we believe in, it’s that words have power: to inspire, to move, and—yes, I’m afraid, to wound. “Mean” reviews (and their counterpart, “too nice” reviews) have been a topic of much discussion for the past few months, but things reached a frenzy this past week when the New York Times published a scathing double-review of Alix Ohlin’s new novel and collection, Inside and Signs and Wonders. Writers everywhere jumped up to defend Ohlin, defend Giraldi, and question whether harsh reviews have a place […]


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Is the Times giving up on fiction?

Image credit: Literary Kicks Every week for the past two months, I’ve played a game where, on Sunday mornings, before I open the New York Times Book Review, I try to guess how many more books of nonfiction than fiction it will review. Fiction is consistently outnumbered, and don’t even get me started on the Book Review’s nearly nonexistent poetry coverage. But the past week surprised even this pessimistic grouch—only TWO fictional works are reviewed in the January 8, 2012 edition, plus Marilyn Stasio’s excellent crime reviewlets, in contrast to ELEVEN nonfiction works. The two fiction reviews are both skimpy […]


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Why Teach Book Reviewing? or, How Penn State Graduate Students Become Responsible Literary Citizens: a guest post by Robin Becker

Editor’s note: As part of our focus on teaching this month, we’re delighted to present this guest post by Robin Becker. “To stimulate, to argue, to celebrate, to explain, to describe, to amuse, to popularize new ideas, to keep the conversation going—these are part of the job and a large part of the ideal to which any good book reviewer will always aspire.” –John Gross, New York Times Book Review Editor; editor of the special 100-year anniversary issue of the NY Times Book Review I designed the graduate seminar The Writer as Critic: Reviewing Contemporary Poetry, Fiction & Non-Fiction (English […]


Interviews |

Mishpocha and Beyond: An Interview with Erika Dreifus

In conversation with Anne Stameshkin, debut author Erika Dreifus shares true stories that inspired her collection, Quiet Americans; wonders when it’s kosher for authors to write characters from backgrounds they don’t share; explores how reviewing books makes us better fiction writers; and recommends favorite novels and collections by 21st-century Jewish authors.


Essays |

Owl Criticism

In this essay, Baxter writes that a trustworthy review has “a kind of doubleness: the reviewer manages to assert somehow that the book under discussion is of some importance for one reason or another; and second, a good review provides a formal description of the book’s properties, so that you could reconstruct it from the reviewer’s sketch of it.”


Essays |

The Good Review

Earlier this month, Editor Jeremiah Chamberlin moderated a panel on criticism at the 2011 AWP Conference entitled “The Good Review: Criticism in the Age of Book Blogs and Amazon.com.” Joining him were Charles Baxter, Stacey D’Erasmo, Gemma Sieff, and Keith Taylor. In this essay, adapted from his talk at that panel, he discusses why liking a book should have nothing to do with a review, and how this thoughts on criticism have changed since running an independent bookstore.



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