Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Nonanon and the Right to Write a Negative Review

I enjoy reading the book reviews by the anonymous Nonanon, who suffers no fools. On her blog Nonfiction Readers Anonymous, she often finds popular nonfiction literature to be short on intelligence, honesty, and readability. She holds books up to high standards and finds that they sometimes fail. When a high percentage of book reviews on blogs and in journals are positive, it is thought-provoking to find a reviewer who has chosen a different path. Recently she found that path was challenged and wrote a defense of the negative review.

I must admit that most of my reviews are positive. I think this comes from reading books I want to read and am inclined to like, and I usually do not get far in a book I do not like. My main goal is getting good books to readers, so I usually do not dwell with the negative.

As a tip of the hat to Nonanon, I offer a short negative review.

I tried to listen to Walden by Henry David Thoreau read by Pete Bradbury, but only got into the third of nine compact discs. I had read Walden two or three times in the past before trying to listen to this audiobook, and I thought it was one of my philosophical foundations. Listening to Bradbury read, I starting thinking Thoreau sounded arrogant and unreasonable. He seemed to ridicule anyone who disagreed with his viewpoint, anyone who continued to participate in what he thought a mislead society. While I still found many good points in his arguments, I grew very tired of the tone of his presentation.

What had changed? Was I reacting negatively to the audiobook because of the Bradbury's interpretation, or have I changed? Am I now less inclined to accept Thoreau's methods? I am not sure.

For the time being, I am not scratching Thoreau from my influences, but I am not listening to that audiobook.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Hi, Rick:
This is wild stuff. I have never "read" Walden but listened to the whole thing on tape while I was painting my house. All the way through, all I could think was, "You know, this Thoreau guy sounds kind of jerky." Perhaps it is just something about listening to the book rather than reading it that takes away from the experience.

Also, thanks for the shout out...I would like to clarify that I think "negative" reviews actually help remove the whole good book/bad book conundrum...many things are popular that I do not think are good books, but if people want them, I'll do my best to hook them up with them (and it's therefore important to read them so I know they're out there). If anything, I think the negative review and the experience of reading books one doesn't particularly like or feel are "good" is very enriching in a librarian-sorta way. (Also, I'll admit: there's nothing I enjoy more than a good juicy negative review. It's a bad habit of mine!)