Good morning, all! I have a couple of reviews in this morning’s Manga Minis, for volume three of Hitohira (see my reviews for the first two volumes here and here), and for DMP/June’s BL one-shot, Love/Knot.
So, something that keeps coming up between me and another reviewer dear to me is a deep insecurity about our own reviews that kicks in whenever we read something written by the other. I think her reviews have an incredible clarity and power of description that immediately tells the reader whether or not a book is something they want to read–something I feel entirely helpless to achieve. She thinks my reviews are thoughtful and especially insightful into the emotional world of the characters, which she envies on some level. Basically, she thinks her reviews are missing the “big picture” and I think mine are missing the point. Most of the time, I think we just admire each other in a very constructive way that inspires us both to do our best, but sometimes we become disheartened by our perception of our own skills, and that’s when I think I have to pull out some kind of lecture on the subject for both of us to listen to. This is my attempt at that lecture.
I think to some extent, we are actually right about our own strengths (and lack thereof) and the strengths of the other, and though our insecurities cause us to focus on this waaaay too much, it is useful information that we can both use to improve our own writing. On the other hand, I think there is a lot of value to our reviews as they stand now, more than there ever could be if we both wrote exactly the same way.
On any given day in the online manga ‘verse, there are multiple reviewers all reviewing the same titles, and personally, I think all those perspectives taken as a whole are more valuable than any one of them alone. One of the greatest things about art of any kind is how, when scattered out into the world, it becomes as many different versions of itself as there are people to read/hear/see it, and while it would be impossible to take in all those different versions of a work at once, reviewers provide a wonderful cross-section of perspectives to sample in order to get a more complete picture of a work than any one individual could provide.
When I’m out looking for information on a new manga series I’m thinking of buying, I know I want to hear what Michelle has to say about it, and Brigid Alverson, Johanna Draper Carlson, Ed Sizemore, Deb Aoki, Kate Dacey, Danielle, Connie, Ysabet, Anna, Lissa… the list goes on and on. Because somewhere in the midst of all of that, I’m going to find the special hook for me–that intangible something that draws me to a story–the same thing I struggle to describe to others in my own reviews, and that’s going to be what sends me to the store to plunk down my hard-earned cash so that I can experience it for myself. And I’m going to find that inspiration in a different source (or combination of sources) every time.
So is this whole thing just an elaborate justification for tolerating my own weaknesses as a writer? Maybe. I’d like to think, though, that I’m actually on to something and that though admiring (and envying) the fantastic work of others can only help me evolve as a writer, there is still something unique that I bring to the table just as each of them do. Michelle, this goes double for you. :) And honestly, it’s a pretty spectacular honor to feel that I’m contributing in any small way to the amazing collective body of critical perspective that was already out there when I began. I know I’m working hard to make my contributions as worthwhile as I can make them, and I also know I have a long way to go. This is a good thing. :)
Thus ends today’s lecture. Time for a cup of coffee.
Random postscript: Pandora radio rocks my socks.
Johanna saysApril 20, 2009 at 9:21 am
I think that’s a wonderful paean to appreciating the values of different perspectives. Thanks for that.
Melinda Beasi saysApril 20, 2009 at 9:34 am
Oh, thank you Johanna, I’m so glad you enjoyed this!
Ed Sizemore saysApril 20, 2009 at 2:45 pm
Melinda, I agree I think you have a very healthy approach on the mulititude of reviewers. I like to read other opinions because they see something I didn’t in a book, give background I didn’t know, are moved by different things, and of course, to learn to write better too. Thanks for being part of the conversation.
Melinda Beasi saysApril 20, 2009 at 2:46 pm
And thanks to you too, Ed! I’m sure you know you’re one of my favorite reviewers out there. :)
Ysabet saysApril 20, 2009 at 4:23 pm
Have I mentioned lately that I like the way you think? This is a great explanation of how we (and the books) all benefit from such a diverse array of eyes looking at the same things.
Melinda Beasi saysApril 20, 2009 at 4:46 pm
*heart* Thank you. :)
Michelle Smith saysApril 20, 2009 at 4:37 pm
If I had written this lecture, it would’ve been far less good.
I kid, I kid. :)
Melinda Beasi saysApril 20, 2009 at 4:46 pm
You are NOT FUNNY.