Sunday, December 9, 2007

To Review...(some introductory remarks)

I have begun this blog as a repository for reviews that I shall write. I want to produce reviews regularly and post them here. It is my further intention to produce formal reviews. The following remarks will clarify what I mean by the phrase formal reviews.

In essence, I place The River's View in contradistinction to my blog Tributary. Since April, 2004, Tributary has been my highly informal venue to write about whatever strikes my fancy, to the tune of more than 2500 posts. My fancy tends to include poetry books and readings, movies, nature walks and occasionally more personal topics. I approach all in an informal, often playful way.

This playfulness takes nothing from my seriousness. I understand that whatever I write on Tributary is public writing, with my name attached. I stand by it for what it is. It is at once playful, sloppy, rushed, funny, curious, and, finally, processually important to me. I enjoy writing Tributary and take pride in its quirky insistence.

With The River's View, however, I want to exhibit more depth and more care. I have let Tributary be carried by the rushing enthusiasm that seems integral to the blogging enterprise. The River's View will be written more slowly and carefully. In fact, I will write it on a word processor rather than in the blog window. The River's View will show more thoughtfulness because I will correct and perfect my work more before posting.

I want to speak some about my methodology. When I have reviewed books on Tributary, I have done so with the understanding that my remarks are superficial. This is not a bad thing, and will continue with The River's View.

Superficial, in this context, means First Sighting. Reviews on Tributary have mainly been of books that I have recently received. In writing about them, I have endeavoured to show the interesting beginnings of a reading, the reading that I have embarked upon. I start each review, frankly, with the assumption that the book is worth reading, and worth rereading.

I do this because I see zero usefulness in panning a book. Let me repeat that: I see zero usefulness in panning a book. You may ask why. I can tell you.

When reviewers pan, they commit themselves to a complete story about the work in hand, the most salient fact of which would be the worthlessness of the enterprise. This view ultimately speaks more of the reviewer than of the work reviewed. Reviewers discover momentum in negative views of the work, a momentum that overwhelms curiosity. Rather than confront the resistance, the reviewer will depend on the energy of rejection. This means that a virtue will be made of the reviewer's limitations. Who needs that?

This is not to suggest that all works are wonderful. No, most work that one sees is anything but. One should accept and revel in how a work that inspires intense resistance is a work to regard. Not necessarily to like, but certainly to become involved with. Work that cannot inspire strong reaction can be ignored.

With these points in mind, I absolutely want to write positive reviews for The River's View. Not fluff pieces, but indications of actual excitement for me as I read. Part of that positivity will be the dismaying confusion of newness and how I react to it. That's the electric charge that one feels when confronting works of art. You know, of course, the wonderful picture that Emily Dickinson presented, of the top of her head exploding in the presence of poetry. YES!!!

I imagine that the main subject of my reviews here will be poetry books, but I will not limit it so. Novels, movies, political questions: whatever floats over the transom. I may even present recipes. The constants, I hope, will include honesty and liveliness. I want to show you the pathways that I found.

Books currently under scrutiny include:
For Girls and Others by Shanna Compton
The Riot Act by Geoffrey Young