Reviews occupy an uneasy position in society. There are those that argue that reviewing is an art in itself, that a well-written review stands alone. There are those that argue that reviewers enjoy a parasitic relationship, piggy-backing on another’s creation. Still others see reviews as mere advertisements, one more cog in the publicity wheel. Regardless of which faction you support, however, it must be admitted that reviewing is fast becoming one of the most controversial forms of writing. ‘Review’ set out to examine the legitimacy of reviewing as a sub-genre of creative non-fiction, and to provide a meta-reflection on all aspects of reviewing and critiquing.
Our cover design by Jay Paul reflects the different media of reviewing. While once the domain of newspapers, review and reviewing is now as much a part of daily life as e-mailing. We spontaneously review for colleagues, family, and friends, every time we offer an opinion on last night’s television show, the movie we saw over the weekend, or the book we just finished. We review ourselves, as we explore different ways to dress, act, seem, be. The white sheet backdrop serves to remind us that nothing remains concrete, and everything is still waiting to be re-viewed.
Our key article, Rochelle Siemienowicz’s ‘Diary of a Film Reviewer: Intimate Reflections on Writing about the Screen for a Popular Audience’ explores the power and the pressure of arts reviewing. As a film reviewer, Siemienowicz occasionally feels uncomfortable with her role. As she asks – who is the reviewer to tell us what to watch? Her exploration and justification for her choices are presented in a diary format, creating an informal, informed, and highly readable journey through her review process. The thoughtfulness demonstrated through the personal account of working as film editor for The Big Issue may well lead to a jump in sales for the not-for-profit magazine.
Why read the New York Times Book Review from cover to cover? Matthew Bolton contends that it be for the “closet drama” of competing arguments and voices, creating a metatext and spectacle of the book as a cultural entity, which we can engage with personally.
Will Noonan studies the history and particular challenges of reviewing Don Quixote and discusses the relationship that develops between a text, the writing it provokes and the figure that emerges of the critic.
As pointed out by Jeffrey Charis-Carlson, reviews have a dichotomous reputation. They are viewed either as marketing devices, or heightened examples of personal opinion. This article displays the uneasy truce between the business and the art of writing reviews. In “Creativity, Commodification, and the Making of a Middlebrow Book Review”, Charis-Carlson explores this dichotomy from the reviewer’s perspective, using his experience writing for the Iowa City Press-Citizen to illustrate the fine line between commodification and creativity.
On the issue of music reviews, Dean Biron writes in The Tortoise and the Hare of the ways in which classical analysis of music differ starkly from contemporary reviewing. Biron argues that while the former is certainly valid and important, modern music writing plays a vital part in the industry, and in many ways can constitute its own art form.
Citing the works of David Bordwell and Pierre Bourdieu, examining magazines such as Sight and Sound and Empire and drawing on much-loved clichés associated with films like Titanic, John-Paul Stephenson’s Reviewing Symbolic Capital argues that the phenomena of reviewing not only generates a substantial level of economic capital, but invites status-minded consumers to invest in symbolic capital as well.
In Reviewing the Scourge of Self-Plagiarism, Lelia Green turns the tables on those plagiarising others and asks academics to consider the perils of plagiarising oneself. As well as examining the recontextualisation of one’s own work and issues relating to writing on the same subjects for multiple texts, Green warns that unconscious self-plagiarism can be equally as dangerous.
Jonathan Marshall presents a manifesto on the future direction of art reviewing, suggesting it be strategic and provocative, designed to engage debate rather than judge. His article contextualises his argument within reference to Romanticism, the Leavisite cannon and Foucault.
Barnaby Ralph ponders the influences that colour the critical gaze; be it to provoke controversy and conflict, to maintain status in the critical pack or are reviewers inevitably jaded over time. Looking to the online opportunities offered for everyone to review books and films, Ralph considers the changing nature of the review and the divide between the professional and the amateur.
Finally, Claudia Schippert takes the self-conscious questioning of the previous articles and turns it inward, ‘Reviewing Gender’ and her own perceptions of herself, her body, and her space in a culture that bases itself firmly on the male/female dichotomy.