so, there’s been this trend lately to be, like, all positive & shit when reviewing books. which i kinda understand. technology has enabled us all to be content producers. anybody & everybody can not only write a book, but publish it. and negative reviews help no one more than the writer. especially if that writer hasn’t come up the old school way and/or become part of a writing community, building up a stable of editors they trust to critique their work—but it’s also true for established writers, who could be otherwise unchallenged because of their burnished reputation.
as readers, however, we might get a perverse thrill from a literary takedown by a critic, but do we really need negative reviews? if the end objective for readers is to know which books to (not) read, couldn’t we more or less glean that by seeing which books never get (positively) reviewed anywhere, ever? on the other hand, is a critic who only writes glowing reviews in danger of becoming overly fawning, or desperately sifting for gold where little (if any) exists?
it is in that context that i wonder what the fate of ruth: woman of courage would be were it published in 2014. it is, ostensibly, a children’s retelling of the story of ruth (i.e., from the bible) which was published in 1977 & beloved by tiny young christians across the land. but let’s pretend it was released today. would it come out on a vanity press, and be panned by academics and lovers of literature alike as unserious, barely(?) sensical words spewed on a page? or would it be snapped up by some by some indie publisher, and hailed by the masses on html giant as a pre/post-ironic deconstruction of contemporary amerikan language which delves into the myth of feminist biblical moral strength? tough to tell.
whether or not the world needs negative reviews in 2014 is up for debate. but i submit that if you’re going to use the *literal* word of god as source material, you’re setting yourself to an awfully high standard—a standard which some reviewer should hold you to. and, paula jordan parris: for you, that reviewer is me.