November 18, 2011

Book reviews: Who do you trust?


Sam Jordison wrote in yesterday’s Guardian about a party Melville House threw in London to celebrate the Not the Booker Prize. We’re only sorry that we’re all the way across the ocean and couldn’t witness/hector in the debate, because by all accounts it was pretty lively.

In his article, Sam picks up on the major recurring theme of the conversation: whether broadsheet book reviews are ‘bland, boring and formulaic’. That phrase is an invitation to quibble, but as Sam points out it’s really important that we consider whether literary criticism adds anything to our appreciation of books, and whether the limited pools of reviewers and books reviewed skews the picture of what there is to read out there. The unanimous answer to the latter suggestion seems to be that yes, people are tired of the saminess of broadsheet literary pages, and as independent publishers of, among other things, fabulous experimental and translated fiction, we’re definitely inclined to agree. Sam mentions Stephen Mitchelmore‘s excellent This Space blog as an alternative to newspaper criticism, and it’s certainly a model of the intellectually courageous, imaginative and valuable things that can be achieved in independent online venues.

What we really want to know, though, is where Moby readers go for reading advice. Who do you trust? Which blogs and papers sway you?

Ellie Robins is an editor at Melville House. Previously, she was managing editor of Hesperus Press.