Thankyou Laura Miller, and your love of terrible book reviews
So, the fulsome Twitter feed of Text Publishing recently called my attention to this article on Slate by Laura Miller, who as a professional critic writes about the enjoyment and value she has found in amateur everyday reviews. You know the kind.
Sometimes it's a one-word, misspelled "crap" dangling forlornly off one star, that tells you nothing about why they hated it and in no way acknowledges that others might have the scope to enjoy different things. (For example I once got a review of "terribr" which was a boon, as my friends and I have taken to calling all manner of bad things terribr). Often they are straight up mean, and include levels of cruel snark intended purely to make the reviewer sound hilarious. If you struggle with those kind of reviews, choking back the tears as your wrist trembles with the strain of lifting yet another bottle of wine, give the article a read. You may also come to appreciate their value :-) Gems that really struck me were the inclusion of C.S. Lewis on the appeal of clichés for readers; which Laura ties in with the broad success of functional "un-literary" styles of writing:
"… because it is immediately recognizable. “My blood ran cold” is a hieroglyph of fear. Any attempt, such as a great writer might make, to render this fear concrete in its full particularity, is doubly a chokepear to the unliterary reader. For it offers him what he doesn’t want, and offers it only on the condition of his giving to the words a kind and degree of attention which he does not intend to give. It is like trying to sell him something he has no use for at a price he does not wish to pay."