Monday, February 28, 2011

The Battle: Writers and Critics

Last day in February! How did it go? Any plans for March?

When writers finish writing, the work is no longer theirs. I think. It now belongs first to the publisher, for polishing, shredding and sending to the public. Then, the critics, those awful looking creatures begin to tear your baby apart…into unknown pieces. They begin to say awful things about your baby that you nurtured in the sacredness of your room, nights of lost sleep. They begin to say things you never intended.

We do not have any nice words for you. It is no longer yours! It only has your name on it. The only rights you have to it are those that come from royalties. The possession that exists now is not that of a mother’s love for a child. It is a love you need not cling closely to...that's if you don't want to be hurt! 

When writers come out and take critics up…it baffles me. Do you think your work is perfect? Besides everyone will say different things about your work…will you go around responding to every negative comment. Then, where will you have the time to write. Oh, I forget you have your publicist. And I also forget many writers don't write for critics, they write for people ;)

In some corners, it is thought that critics should stick with certain standards before criticizing works. Standards like: what elements does the story exhibit? What does the writer set out to do? Was the purpose of the writing achieved? Some even suggest the use of literary theories like realism, Marxism, post-colonialism, etc. as measures…they only forget that every judgement however critical it attempts to look is a bias, a preference. Thus emphasizing the Roman proverb “there is no arguing about taste.” And oh yes this one, many critics buy books with their money and think they are free to write whatsoever they want because hey, it was their money that bought it. If they didn't enjoy the work, they'd say. However. 

Thus begins the battle. The fighters: writers and critics. The battlefield: The text. The weapons: words, hurled left, right and centre. 

What do you think?


  1. I don't think writers should respond to critics, and funny thing is, they only do it to negative reviews. IMHO, good or bad, reader or reviewer, it is their opinion.

  2. I went to a discussion that had Lionel Shriver as a panelist and she was talking about how because of the internet, everyone is now a critic and internet criticism is a lot more vitriolic. I think I agree with her. You rarely get personal attacks on a writer when you read one of the established papers. I always wonder what is the beef, when I see how some bloggers review books. Criticism is good, I just prefer the detached criticism that isn't so spiteful. Having said that, I've read some really good reviews online as well that do have that detached tone. I suppose the difference is that there's no censor on the internet. So the bitchy ones can post to their hearts content and then slur their more professional counterparts.