It is an interesting conundrum… Do we want to be reviewed by readers or writers? In other words, which would we rather be, a reader’s writer or a writer’s writer?
Kay Sexton writes in response to this point made in a recent comment on her blog (link to the right):
We all want readers, and so when we review we should be asking a series of simple questions: was this worth reading - why or why not? was it enjoyable reading - why or why not? That’s what helps both the writer and a potential reader understand how the book works on the most important level – readability. Only then should we move on to the literary questions of voice, themes etc.
My initial reaction was that there is an element of truth in this… but on reflection, I think it is far too simplistic.
‘Was it enjoyable reading’ can only be answered from the standpoint of the single reviewer/reader. And if that is a reader who does not skim for plot excitement, actively seeks out well crafted work, layers of meaning, challenging stuff, interesting use of language, insights into life seen through the prism of another human being’s lens… then ‘readability’ itself takes on a more complex meaning.
‘Readability’ without 'literary questions' presupposes no effort. Easy riding. Those texts with the lowest reading age requirement. Beach yarns. Great fun. Fill a gap on holiday, and you leave them behind, eminently forgettable.
I’d like to think there’s more to reading for some. Am I a snob? Not at all. People can read and eat exactly what they what they want to. but crucially, being just 'readable' doesn’t make something ‘good’. And if I’m reviewing, I bring to the equation my own values of what ‘good’ is. As someone did with my work, found it badly wanting… and I'll use that as a spur to write stronger and better, in the end, not weaker.
Would I like to be a reader’s writer or a writer’s writer?
Both. In an ideal world, I’d like to be read for enjoyment and to have the respect of good writers.