'Look me in the eye and say that'

by
December 1992, no. 147

'Look me in the eye and say that'

by
December 1992, no. 147

Book reviewing. I’ve done quite a lot of it. I regard it as my trade and a profession, one to be proud of, with principles and rules and responsibilities, to be practised ethically and with generosity. And not gloomily, nor theoretically, for I write for readers, not scholars.

It’s an odd trade, when you come to think of it, telling people what books they should read, or buy, which ones work, which ones fail. In its own closed world it could be seen as carrying great power, making and breaking reputations, careers, lives perhaps. I’ve heard of a writer committing suicide as a result, think some people including its author, of a damning review. A long time ago. Sometimes negativity seems to run through a whole set of reviews like a virus of great virulence and travelling power, yet inexplicable, and sometimes perhaps the reverse happens. My last novel, Lovers’ Knots, seems to have had nothing but positive comment, which I find interesting because it seems to me an easy book to attack and demolish if a critic were feeling full of bile; it would need a certain malice and cruelty but that is not so very unusual in the business.

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