Just Call Us Zaphod Beeblebrox

January 18th, 2005 · 2 Comments
by Booksquare

We are of two minds on the concept of anonymous reviews. One mind thinks that anonymity allows a reviewer to be more honest (and we’re bothered by the fact that we have to include “more” before honest). The other mind thinks there is a bond between reviewer and reader, and, in reviews, voice is not always discernible. Mind #1 reminds us that it is virtually impossible to write without bias (computers notwithstanding, and we have our doubts there). Mind #2 asks what’s wrong with stand by your opinion.

Is it any wonder that we can’t decide on a restaurant?

In the end, Mind #3, not necessarily a tie-breaker, but the closest we have, says it’s all about the editorial position. Does the publication endorse the review, or does it publish a review? Moreso, does the audience of the publication buy into the editorial viewpoint or not? Of course, this leads to the question of what is a review and who is a reviewer.

Damn, we’re going to need another head.

File Under: Square Pegs

2 responses so far ↓

  • Brenda Coulter // Jan 19, 2005 at 7:22 am

    Booksquare, I’m beginning to worry about you with all those extra heads. Maybe you should lay off the Pan Galactic Gargle Blasters, babe.

    Since a book review is one person’s opinion, I think it matters a great deal that we know whose opinion we’re reading. The idea that anonymous reviews are somehow more honest is ludicrous. You want honesty, read a reviewer who has the guts to write under a byline. She’s putting her reputation on the line–she’s not going to lie to you.

  • booksquare // Jan 19, 2005 at 10:43 pm

    Whew, Brenda, thanks for the reality check (yes, still recovering from the b-word being used last week). Though I will say the Blasters are beyond excellent. Especially after this week (my ideal job description: Kept Woman; my reality: Person Who Ensures Cats Eat Highest End Food Possible).

    You know, I so want to say, yeah, I totally agree with you. But I used to do reviews, and was, well, I wouldn’t say tight, but integrated, with a certain genre’s reviewing community. And, frankly, I would say many of those reviews were less honest due to real names. I’m fudging verb tenses, by the way. Once a personal relationship is developed between an author and reviewer, objectivity is compromised.

    Now, Mind #2 says, as usual, get over it, babe. Authors are big girls and everyone should be able to separate professional opinion from friendship. The sad fact is that the publishing industry is somewhat incestuous.

    Yeah, the solution is obvious…don’t, uh, do certain bodily functions where you eat. But, from an author and reviewer perspective, it’s easier said than done. And, if we’re both agreeing that a book review is a person’s opinion versus an editorial opinion (like an editorial for a newspaper that reflects the views of the paper versus a person), I think real names work best. If my mother wouldn’t be upset, I’d seriously consider changing my middle name to “Wishy Washy” on this issue.