Sunday, August 5, 2012

Reviews filled with venom

Reviews filled with venom, writes C.S. Lewis (see this post for D. Wujastyk recommending him) are just useless:
They can, no doubt, be enjoyed it we already agree with the critic. But then, you know, we are not reading them to inform our judgement. What we enjoy is a resounding blow by our own 'side' (p. 329).
The problem is that while reading such reviews,
[a]utomatically […] one's mind discounts everything he [the reviewer] says; as it does when we are listening to a drunk or delirious man.Indeed we cannot even think about the book under discussion. The critic rivets our attention on himself (p. 329).
Thus, the review fails to hit the target it so strongly coveted to aim at. One focuses on the reviewer and on who s/he might be and why s/he might be so angry… A real pity, especially if she is right in pointing out faults in a given work!

Do you share the same view? Or can you read a review filled with venom and still focus on the work under discussion?

On reviews, see this post (and the ones following it).


andrew said...

it depends on what "venom" is, really. i doubt that personal attacks (including the suggestion of some hidden agenda) ever have a legitimate place in a review. but there is a place for pitilessness... it was chomsky's (most impersonal) review of "linguistic behavior" that took linguistics in a completely new direction.

(speaking of personal attacks: i have to say that i think c.s. lewis parading around as the ideal of the passionless, objective critic is rather precious, or rather, shows how hollow that ideal is.)

nOe said...
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elisa freschi said...

Well, this is the point. One can attack the sin, not the sinner. In other words, what I think should be avoided are remarks such as *"Lewis speaks about objective critic just because he is personally unable to be aggressive, probably due to a lack of testosterone". Anything about the author, including his hidden agenda, as you rightly point out, seems to me to be off the mark. It might be fun, but let us then talk about it at a dinner party and not on a journal. Poisonous enough?

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