Struggles of Reviewing with Sarah Chorn
After a bit of a break, the sixth installment of TFF’s new guest post series on the demands of reviewing welcomes Sarah Chorn from Bookworm Blues.
“Another great friend, Sarah is one of the most dedicated and professional bloggers I know. She also happens to be one of the strongest people I’ve met, having overcome some significant personal issues recently. Her dedication to being a reviewer is, quite frankly, inspiring in the extreme, and I often check her reviews before picking up a book. Definitely check out her work! ” ~Shadowhawk
Struggles of Reviewing
by Sarah Chorn
I didn’t really get into book reviewing expecting to get anything out of it. I just wanted a place I could go to pretend to talk to people about the books I read. My first reviews reflect this. They aren’t as much reviews as thoughts about the book I read. Then, I started to get an audience and this audience started getting me some attention. People started to pay attention to what I said. Publishers started to notice. Authors approached me. My reviews have changed over time, based on the feedback I’ve received over the years. Almost three years in, and my reviews have changed so much; I wouldn’t recognize those first hesitant steps into the Internet void if I didn’t know I’d written those pieces in the first place.
I, personally, don’t think anything is perfect. I also think that art is all about perception and evolution. What might thrill the holy hell out of you might absolutely repulse me. That’s not right or wrong. It just is. We take our own life experiences into our understanding and appreciation of any piece of art, whether it’s Picasso or Blake Charlton. That’s part of the beauty of reviewing and that’s part of what I love about watching the evolution of other reviews, not just my own. We change over time. I’ve fought cancer – twice, and fought tooth and nail for the life of my beautiful and healthy baby girl. Of course that will be reflected in the books I enjoy, and the kind of violence, drama and romance that I can swallow. That’s only to be expected. I’d expect the same from my fellow reviewers. It’s nothing short of fascinating to see how life changes perceptions and quality.
As a reviewer, I don’t struggle too much with being unbiased. I actually give it very little thought, where I know some other reviewers out there agonize over how fair they are being. I tend to take it all in stride. I don’t sweat the small stuff, and most of it is small stuff. I focus on my enjoyment of a book, and I try to show readers how much I enjoy what I do. I like passion. I like reading passionate books and I enjoy digesting passionate reviews. I don’t ever want to be sterile with my perceptions or portrayals of said perceptions. Perhaps that’s wrong, but life isn’t unbiased. Life isn’t fair, and life isn’t sterile. Life is a passionate ride from one extreme to the next and it’s those extremes that make reviewing, and reading reviews, so much fun.
I mentioned above that nothing is perfect, and that’s pretty much the cement that holds my website together. You can find that personal belief in every review or guest post I write. Nothing is perfect. I’ve never read a perfect book or a perfect review, and I don’t think I’d want to. If you look hard enough, there’s always enough negative to balance the positive. There’s always enough shadow to balance the light. Without that, there wouldn’t be art. I try hard to show that in my reviews. I can’t gloss over details just because they are uncomfortable.
And occasionally I do worry about whether or not I will hurt feelings. That’s a pretty human worry. I don’t like being the slap and author feels when they have spent so much time and effort on a book. However, I have offended and I have been the cold slap an author feels after a lot of unappreciated effort. I’ve received emails from authors or agents or other reviewers who have asked me why I said (insert thing here) and how I could think that way. Sometimes people want to argue. Sometimes they just want to say, “that was a really dumb review.” I don’t think any of that has ever bothered me in the least. Why? Because that’s what reviewing is. Not every book, or painting, will please me, and not every review should please you. It’s fine. If you are upset, at least I made you think or look at something a little bit differently and I can promise that other reviews have had the same effect on me. Reviewing is a beautiful tug-of-war that I love being part of. Sometimes all I can do is respect the effort without respecting the meat and bones of the work itself. Perhaps that’s the hardest part of being a reviewer – being okay with not liking something, even if you are the only person who feels that way.
In the end, I do this because I love it. I love to read. I love to write. I love to share ideas. I love to pick over deeper meanings and exchange thoughts. I do this because it’s fun and being part, even a small part, of the creative process is incredible. That, my friends, is the glue that holds Bookworm Blues, and all my mental meanderings together. I don’t sweat the small stuff. I don’t think reviewing is hard. I don’t worry about upsetting people, or being unbiased, or portraying X-numbers of positives about a book and Y-numbers of failings. It isn’t a math formula, it’s art and expression and desire and passion and it’s raw and messy and unfiltered and definitely unedited.
And that’s what I love about it.
The next guest on for the series will be fellow reviewer and friend Stefan Fergus from “Civilian Reader“, on the 4th of April .
- Mieneke van der Salm from A Fantastical Librarian
- David Ledeboer from Troubled Scribe
- Ken Wong from The Paperless Reading
- Paul Weimer from SF Signal and The Functional Nerds