Dec 27th, 2012 by writerandcritic
This last episode of The Writer and the Critic for 2012 sees your hosts, Kirstyn McDermott and Ian Mond, sink their teeth into non-fiction. But first they give a friendly shout-out to the brand spanking new podcast from Sean Wright, Adventures of a Bookonaut -- to which you should all go and listen right now -- as well as the entertainingly erudite Ambling Along the Acqueduct blog. (Kirstyn's brand spanking new novel, Perfections, might also garner a wee mention.) The duo then become embroiled in a debate about critics and authors and whether one person can or even should wear both hats, as well as whether or not critics need to take the feelings of authors into consideration -- regardless of what kind of spiffy headwear either of them might be donning at the time.
The books up for discussion this month are Evaporating Genres, a collection of essays by Gary K. Wolfe (beginning 35:20), and James Tiptree, Jr.: The Double Life of Alice B. Sheldon, a biography by Julie Phillips (1:03:50). This thoughtful essay by Jonathan McCalmont is mentioned and, in the spirit of Alice Sheldon, Ian promises to begin writing Letters of Appreciation to authors whose work he has enjoyed. We will follow him up on this next year!
There are no real spoilers here but if you have skipped ahead, then please tune back in at 1:39:50 for some closing remarks and (belated) holiday well-wishes.
And now for the sad news ... The Writer and the Critic is on hiatus for a couple of months and won't be back until March 2013. The good news is that will give you plenty of time to read Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace and House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski. Hopefully it will give Kirstyn and Ian plenty of time as well!
Thanks to everyone who listened to The Writer and the Critic during 2012. Ian and Kirstyn love you all to bits and look forward to talking at you a whole lot more in 2013!
Reviewing or commenting on works is a really volatile pastime. I think you’ve covered some of the issues. My two highest ranking reviews (by views) are Red Country by Joe Abercrombie then Carnival of Souls by Melissa Marr. I believe Joe Abercrombie’s book review was viewed because I interviewed him, and the interview was popular. My review of Carnival of Souls took off after Melissa Marr tweeted about my review: “I often wonder (as authors tend to) if the subtext or even the text is clear to readers. When I read http://www.darkmatterfanzine.com/dmf/carnival-of-souls/ … I was v happy ” From my perspective I was concerned about some of the things I said in my review as I felt I was going out on a limb to a point, but I thought what I said had validity. When Melissa reacted, I was relieved but also encouraged in my review writing.
I’ve been accused of being all ‘golly gee whizz gosh’ enthusiastic and therefore apparently irrelevant in my reviews because I try to limit my reviewing to books that I think I’ll enjoy. When I don’t enjoy them I try to analytically say why with the intent of giving readers feedback to help them decide if it’s a book they want to read. In the rare event that I’ve said a book is terrible, I’ve written far too much to explain why the plot is shite, how it’s inconsistent etc. While I have an academic background, I haven’t studied literature at a tertiary level so I feel rather intimidated by the thought of reviewing at a literary-technical level. Funnily enough I feel much more comfortable critiquing from a sociological viewpoint.
I’m not a published author so even when I criticise a work I’m not seen as a rival. On the downside, I think some people suspect that I may be an undeclared advertiser, which is a whole other can of worms.
On the topic of genre boundaries, I’m not a purist.