Saturday, April 04, 2009

More Angst-Ridden Babble

There's something weird about being a book blogger, especially one in the kidlitosphere. There's a weird symbiosis about writing about books and interacting with their creators. Others have oft noted it and bloggers have been accused of being unable, as non-professional reviewers (a whole different beef), to be objective about the task. I think it's bullshit, at least as it pertains to me (the only case I'm qualified to talk about). Because, trust me, I can like you and not think your book is anything special - I'll try to be nice about it, though. But even basing my argument on "trust me" opens me up to valid accusations of self-referential, fact-free, unprofessional writing (cue eye roll).

What does this mean to you, my reader? Well, it means that you may well find from time to time that I'm talking about a book by an author I've somehow become friends with. So how does a blogger review a book written by a friend without appearing biased or unreliable? This is a growing concern for me as I immerse myself deeper into this kidlit world and start creating friendships with the people whose creative work I may well criticize in this space. Most of the time, I've simply chosen to either not read or review books of authors I consider friends. But that's not really fair, either - to me, or them.

For instance, in this very case - I really, truly, like A la Carte, I want it to do well, and I want readers who maybe haven't seen this title to be aware of it - or better yet - pick it up. And not because the author is my friend - but because I liked that book. I've had a hard time with this. It doesn't have anything to do with the book - it's the all about the author. See, Tanita S. Davis? I've never met her, but I would absolutely not hesitate to call her my friend. If I were in Scotland, I'd absolutely stop by and have a cup of tea. Or force them to feed me something more substantial than that (b/c she and her husband have a food blog. A food blog that always makes me hungry.) Or even, if I suck up really well, stay with them. Three years ago, Tanita and I served as nominating panelists during the very first year of the Cybils. During that process received she her contract for A la Carte. We were a tight group. We bonded. I'm still very attached to the members of that group. They are amazing women whom I watch to this day with interest and love (me = total sap). Can I judge the products of Tanita's imagination without bias or predisposition?

Ultimately, it's up to you to decide if you find my content unbiased and of quality. I suspect you will, and that I'm far more likely to lose (and have lost) readers due to my irregular posting. A point I'm not willing to adjust, since I'd rather have a life than be a star blogger (of course, if someone wanted to PAY me, the whole equation is null). If you don't like what I review, the way I review, or how I review, well, I'm not quite sure why you are even still here, so I'm not terribly concerned about that.

Like I've said, I've struggled a great deal with this decision, but ultimately, I've decided that, to over simplify the whole damn thing, it's my blog and I'll blog about what I want to, regardless of who wrote it and how much I like that person. Since really, as we all know, liking a particular book isn't what makes me talk about them here. And *that* more than anything, should tell you whether to give credence to what I say, as I think I've proved with the content of this blog that I can like something just fine, and still have negative things to say, and dislike something and still have good things to say. So, as I said in my last angst-ridden post, I'll speak up when I have something to say. 'Cause I'm not reviewing the author, I'm reviewing the book. I hope you'll stick around.


Anonymous said...

I think this post is brilliant allll of us book bloggers should read it. It is definitely difficult to give a "bad" review of a book, when friendly with the author or even the publicists. Sometimes publicists just loooove a specific book and i think it's terribly written. Bummer for them, but I owe it to my readers to be honest. If I wasn't, why should they bother reading and thus purchasing/checking out the titles I write about?

Again, brilliant rant there, Jackie. And even with the irregular posting, I'll stick around as a reader. :)

Anonymous said...

I meant to place a period after brilliant. My own bad grammar is overly irritating. Sheesh.

Jackie Parker said...

Wow, Amanda! Thanks so much. That means a lot.

holly cupala said...

Jackie, as an author and as a friend, I appreciate how honestly and thoughtfully you approach this dilemma - and it's one of the things I respect most about you. You treat blogging about books with integrity.

tanita✿davis said...

Jackie, I love you.
You and Kyle had better come stay here when you come. We can all share the strange British bathroom and its coffin-like bathtub, and eat strange foods together. I would expect nothing else, and you know that.

I totally feel ya about the how-do-I-review-this-book-objectively thing, but I also love the simplify-my-life-and-free-my-mind direction you've taken. Serving with Anne this last time as a Cybils judge cemented it for me: I need to be honest, and as an author I need to hear the things you have to say, good, bad, or indifferent. Honesty matters to me!

And now I have tons more things to say, but me=sap>you...!

Little Willow said...


Vivian Mahoney said...

Well said. And I've got Tanita's book in my TBR list--I really need to get a copy.

Sarah Stevenson said...

Bravo--really thoughtful post. For my blog reviews, I always end up coming back to the original idea we had when we started the blog--that we wanted to write up books that interested us, that we wanted to pass along to other readers...and whenever I start to worry about why or how I'm doing what I'm doing, I try to remind myself of that. Good for you for also being in touch with why you're doing what you're doing--keep it up!!