1.07.2005

Good Reviews, Bad Reviews Redux

One common misperception in politics and literature is that you cannot disagree. Non-sequitor has had an on-going series on maligning those who disagree. One problem common to genre or politics is that we cannot possibly be wrong--no matter to what degree. No dissent allowed. Although pure, unalloyed, 100% rightness is impossible, we continue to wear rosy glasses of belief in our perfection. Debate is healthy, and it's a shame that so many discourage it (I'll be continuing this thread over on the Mundane SF blog shortly as the other half of my argument pertains more to science and literature).

Studio 360 catches Susan Sontag saying, "I like to argue with myself." And really, isn't that what it's all about? If you don't argue with yourself, the text, and other ideas, how reliable are your ideas, your literatures, your politics?

I argue with myself. In fact, I even revise after I've posted. I almost revised the previous post, but wouldn't it be better to show that I am human like the rest of humanity and make mistakes or oversights? My mistake was not explaining why one is a fascist for calling someone a fascist for disagreeing with, say, name-calling as a legitimate method of critique. It's called "poisoning the well" in which the debater attempts to sway listeners away from other viewpoints by smearing the other person's character. This is a strong arm tactic, not unlike what Hitler used to rally support.

Daniel Green continues explicating what differentiates a good review from lesser attempts by quoting Jonathan Mayhew's thought blog. I like the way Mayhew adds little thoughts as he goes, continuing his argument with himself. He's changed from liking "difficult poetry" to redefining it. His dialogue continues over time. (I would like to hear what he has to say about Tost's poetry collection since we went to school together--either as a blogger or as a reviewer.)

Green explains that value judgements aren't worth much. "This didn't work for me" and its ilk doesn't work for anyone. Ask yourself why it didn't work for you.

More from Sontag: "If we don't learn from our experience, what else do we learn from?"

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