March 4, 2008

Over at Comics Worth Reading, Johanna Draper Carlson ponders the etiquette of review pull-quotes on book covers. Should the publisher notify the reviewer that their quote is going to be used and maybe send a comp of the finished product?

I haven’t been quoted that often, and I really don’t mind when it happens. I’ve written the reviews for public consumption, and I stand by them, so if the quote is an accurate reflection of my overall sentiments, I’ve got no problem with that kind of use. I wouldn’t mind an e-mail from the publisher in those instances, but it doesn’t bother me when I don’t get one.

I do find it kind of alarming to see myself quoted on a book cover. It’s kind of like hearing recordings of my voice, which always make me wonder if I really sound like that and why people don’t beg me to stop talking or just punch me and run away. I guess the most usefully quotable parts of my reviews end up sounding either mawkish or pompous to me out of the context of the full review, so I tend to cringe a bit.

As for reviewing in general, I’ve been wondering lately if I might write more negative reviews. I tend to focus on books that I like, and there are a couple of reasons for that. One is that there are lots of choices out there, and I think it’s more useful to focus on the noteworthy than the forgettable. Another is that I find writing a positive review more challenging than writing a negative one. (I’ve been sarcastic and critical roughly since the point I started speaking in full sentences, so those rhetorical muscles are reasonably well developed.)

I do think I might add more pans to the mix. If I’m excited by a solicitation and say so, then find the actual book kind of dreadful, I try to say so at least briefly, if only to set the record straight. Any thoughts either way on my balance of positive and negative responses? Should I bring more hate?