Sunday, June 11, 2006

Amateur vs. Professional

This morning on NPR’s Weekend Edition I heard a review of The Stolen Child, by Keith Donohue, a book I have not yet read, but which fits in with my current interest in magical realism. Along with the review was a story about how good this book’s sales have been, due in large part to’s decision to bypass professional book reviewers, and instead ask for reviews from their amateur reviewers. These amateur reviewers liked the book, and thus sales have been brisk.

A professional book reviewer, John Freeman, of the National Book Critic’s Circle was asked his opinion of this trend, and he said the most ridiculous, inane thing I’ve ever heard. He said that letting amateurs review a book was a bad idea, because they can’t read a book with the same care as a professional reviewer, that only professional reviewers can really take the time to sit and immerse themselves in a book, and read it the way that a novelist would like it to be read. The reason we amateurs can’t possibly devote enough time to the important task of reading? It’s because we “have jobs,” he says. So let me get this straight: novels can really only be appreciated by professional reviewers, and the rest of us are just idiot working stiffs who read too quickly to appreciate the nuances? Right, I get it. What a wanker.


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