What makes someone want to be a critic? Or a reviewer? When does a reader become a critic or a reviewer? Actually, what’s the difference between ‘critic’ and ‘reviewer’? Here are some dictionary definitions, and please note these are just a few of many possible definitions.
Firstly for ‘critic’:
1. a person who judges, evaluates, or criticizes: a poor critic of men.2. a person who judges, evaluates, or analyzes literary or artistic works, dramatic or musical performances, or the like, especially for a newspaper or magazine.3. a person who tends too readily to make captious, trivial, or harsh judgments; faultfinder
Secondly for ‘reviewer’:
1. a person who reviews.2. a person who reviews books, plays, etc.
I also looked up ‘review’, ‘reader’, ‘peruse’ and several other terms but there’s no point in just listing all the definitions you can do that easily enough yourself. The thing is, my knowledge wasn’t especially enhanced by the research. So I’ll stick with my own current definitions, and do note these are specifically in relation to books rather than films, or restaurants, or anything else. Oh, and they don’t have to match your or anyone else’s understanding, either. And ‘opens’ doesn’t specify any kind of format.
A ‘reader’ is a person who opens and peruses the content of a book for enjoyment or knowledge/research.
A ‘reviewer’ is a ‘reader’ who opens and peruses the content of a book to gain an understanding of what is written and how it is written, and then presents an evaluation of the work through their personal opinion, insight and experience.
A ‘critic’ is a ‘reviewer’ who opens and peruses the content of a book to gain an understanding of what is written and how it is written, and then presents their personal opinion, insight and experience through an evaluation of the work.
I know how much writers need to see their work go under the microscope, hoping the resulting review will be (at least mainly) praise. I also know that very many readers rely on the thoughts of others (see my earlier post) to guide their choice when considering what story to next engage with. People who write up new books and stories are, therefore, rightly and properly in our midst. They provide a good and valuable service – when they do it right.
The problem is, of course, that absolutely anyone can write about somebody else’s work and, with the advent of the good ol’ web, opinion publishing has become the easiest thing to do in the world, as this post exemplifies! All this freedom is great, of course, but what it also means is that people with little writing skill or imagination of their own are free to bludgeon their way through a thousand hours of someone else’s carefully crafted script and then turn out choice phrases like “…what the author should have said was…” or “…if I’d written it…”.
Of course all critique has to be from a personal viewpoint and must therefore be opinionated. But there seem to be many critics (as opposed to reviewers, by my definition) out there who appear convinced that their thoughts are the only thing that matters, that they have some remarkable ability to know the author’s mind better than the author her or himself, that the world needs to know how the critic would have written the story rather than the actual writer.
Now, having got to this point in my post I decided to do a little more research and discovered an article that put things forward from a critic’s view. The critic is also an author in their own right. Anyway, what I should do is scrap everything I’ve just written and simply direct you to the article because it’s superb – but I’m not going to because I though it might be good to see how my opinion meets up with theirs, which it does in several respects. The article is: Review Or Critique, Which Is It?. My review of the article is that it is well written, easy to read, informative, opinionated. The author gives their own definitions and describes the nuances that differentiate critic, reviewer, reader, etc. much better than I can. I can honestly say I would love to be reviewed and critiqued by this person.
Go and read that article. It actually makes me sympathise with the true, honest and professional (by which I don’t mean paid, I mean in approach) critic because they get just as narked as authors do by the egotists and seekers after attention and self-glory (all that should be the prerogative of the authors!) who consider themselves sages to whom we should all refer for wise and learned counsel.
Oh, and by the way, I personally haven’t yet received a bad review but I know eventually it will happen – I just hope when it does it’ll be by a good critic like Bud Fields, or Alain Gomez!
(PS – you have no idea how tempted I was to mix up rights/writes/rites for a bit of fun, but I’ve manfully resisted the urge!)