Democracy in Reviewing?September 29th, 2007
by Dan Wickett
Does anybody else out there find themselves subconsciously jumping from publisher to publisher when reading and reviewing titles? I say subconsciously because, while typically pretty anal about things, creating lists and whatnot, when it comes to selecting the next title I’m going to read, I just wing it. Walk over to the shelf, or one of the many boxes or piles strewn about the house and try to determine what looks good.
As I’m constantly reading manuscripts submitted to Dzanc Books, as well as a copious amount of material from online journals for The Best of the Web 2007, I try to be selective when choosing the titles I’m going to read next; or so I thought. However, looking at the stack I’ve read in recent months (while wondering when in the hell I’m actually going to write the reviews of them), I question if I’ve not allowed the logos on the spines help me determine my reading pattern. And it seems to me that some hidden guilt over receiving review copies and galleys may have snuck into that determination pattern.
Beyond just enjoying what I was doing with the Emerging Writers Network, an early benefit was the occasional receipt of a book in the mail. What? Free? This is pretty cool! As more and more titles began to arrive in quicker and quicker fashion, it became fairly obvious that I’d never be able to keep up with things if Itried to even read all of them, let alone review them and possibly interview an author or two. What I didn’t envision though, was this subtle ‘democracy’ in reviewing that I appear to have succombed to, perhaps in an attempt to keep as many publishers as happy as possible.
Here’s what I’ve read in recent months:
Refresh, Refresh by Benjamin Percy (Graywolf)
The Understory by Pamela Erens (Ironweed Press)
The Meat and Spirit Plan by Selah Saterstrom (Coffee House Press)
25 titles - 23 different publishers. The great thing is that there isn’t a title listed above that I wouldn’t recommend. Sure some more than others, but I think that goes without saying. I was just surprised seeing all the different spines staring at me from this shelf of ‘to be reviewed’ books and wondered if anybody else out there is catching themselves doing something similar?