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Australian philosopher, literary critic, legal scholar, and professional writer. Based in Newcastle, NSW. Author of FREEDOM OF RELIGION AND THE SECULAR STATE (2012), HUMANITY ENHANCED (2014), and THE MYSTERY OF MORAL AUTHORITY (2016).

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Adam Roberts on Robert Jordan

Even if you're a big fan of Robert Jordan, you'll get something out of this, including some amusement but also some food for thought on what it is we do when we discuss the merits of literary works.

For maximum enjoyment, you need to dip into the reviews of the individual books.

H/T Damien Broderick.


Tyro said...

Very funny and apt reviews. I started reading the series as a kid but let it drop after a few books then tried to pick it back up after I left University. It seemed like every female couldn't "say" anything, they could only "sniff". It drove me a little nuts so never made it through to the book where they could only gather their skirts. Whew, dodged a bullet there!

One thing did stand out which I thought was very reminiscent of the gnu/accomodationist debates and of the comparison that Dawkins makes between "harsh" criticism in religion vs everything else. Here, Adam is responding to comments that since he's calling these books crap, isn't he also saying that people who like the books are also crap?

So, let’s say, you read The Eyes of Argon and you love it; you’re gripped, thrilled, moved and inspired. Then you read a review that says ‘The Eyes of Argon is terribly bad stuff.’ Do you then

(a) say to yourself: a different opinion to mine, how interesting, let a thousand flowers bloom and a thousand schools of thought contend, one feature of great art is that it provokes a diversity of responses. Or

(b) say to yourself: the review, by calling this book crap, is saying that my taste in books is crap which is tantamount to calling me a big crappy crap-crap. Nobody calls me a big crap-crap and gets away with it. Where does this motherfucker get off calling people big crap-craps like this? Why can’t he keep his offensive opinions to himself?

But of course it goes without saying that reviewers respond to the book they have read, not to the idea in their heads of the sort of people who like the book they have just read. Apart from me, I mean. Obviously when I review, I do so specifically to mock the value-systems and worth of people who read. People like you, sir. And you madam.

(emphasis mine)

Ah, if this clear, simple fact was applied elsewhere.

Peter Beattie said...

you'll get something out of this

Now I’m curious. What do you think can be got out of those “reviews”? Except for an occasional funny turn of phrase, they’re mostly empty rants. If there’s anything in there that one could actually learn about writing, I’d like to be pointed towards it.

And no, if, for example, the only reason Adam Roberts can think of for very detailed descriptions of a scene is padding, then I don’t think he has a lot of insights to offer on writing, the writing process, or reception.