Monday, January 12, 2009


Response to literature--indeed all art--is subjective, like falling in love. A review is one reader's response, albeit a public one. The best reviews strive for balance, given that most readers of the review won't have read the book being discussed or dissected.

Gang reviews do a disservice to authors and readers, though they are expedient for busy, overloaded literary editors with too many books and too little space. These round-ups barely allow room for a rudimentary thumb's up or thumb's down. They coerce the reviewer into a beauty contest, dealing with each work primarily in comparison to the others, choosing a winner. Often the works discussed share little in terms of vision, style, or voice. Such comparisons are reductive,odious,as they are in the human realm.

Each book, new to the world, deserves being analyzed and discussed as a unique entity.

As a novelist with three works of fiction published and one on the way, I've done some reflecting of late about what is ultimately most important to me regarding each of my book's lives in the world. I savour and cherish reader responses after the long years of ass in chair time imagining and writing into my volumes of short stories and novels. I also hope for a life beyond the internecine Montreal literary scene (gotta love it) and beyond the small and shrinking market here in Canada (O Canada, adopted home, I love you too)!

The White Space Between, my latest, will be published in the U.S. this spring. Check my website in a bit for events there, certainly New York, my home town and Minneapolis, MN, home of my BFF and a wonderful literary city. Other venues as well.

I long for The White Space Between to be translated into other languages and to reach foreign countries. So Germany, The Netherlands, Denmark, Korea, France, Japan, Israel, my fingers are crossed. Not to mention you French publishers here in Quebec.

It's a great big world out there. Thank goodness for that.

1 comment:

Leo said...

I do agree that combo reviews done with insufficient space for each of the books reviewed does a disservice to all involved - the authors, the public and the publication which printed the review. A cursory round-up of two or three paragraphs doesn't allow enough of the sense of the book to come out and the result is rather empty and superficial.

However, I have seen combo reviews that are very well done (Harper's Magazine, for example), that leave sufficient space for each of the books involved that allow readers to get a sense for each and every book reviewed, as well as a theme that unites them all. But it takes a commitment on the part of the publication to let the reviwer write sufficient material for each, and further, a reviewer with some knowledge of the theme he/she is proposing to unite the books in question. If these elements are not in place, then the exercise fails.

Regards your point about the life of a book, I certainly do hope that yours achieves a life beyond the country in which it was published. For Canadian writers, having their book published in Canada for domestic consumption is but the start. The USA, UK and Australia are all great markets to get into and if you can swing it (as you have for the USA), it's an incredible opportunity, considering the number of authors local to each of the countries that crowd their respective markets.

So, go forth and multiply. Spread the word far and wide and don't rest until your status has changed from a Canadian author to an author that happens to live in Canada.