Thursday, January 14, 2010

Take your time

For most book bloggers, the last months have probably been hectic in blogland. The end of the year means more than just a new number to get used to, it means an almost obligatory best of list. I mentioned recently in a post that I'm not a big fan of best of the year lists, but it wasn't until a few days ago that I realized the main reason why: retrospect.

I was going through some old reviews I wrote back in 2007 when something somewhat unpleasant occurred to me (other than the fact that the reviews were terrible) - my ratings (and sometimes opinions) all seemed completely off. Time is a key component in the absorption of literature, a point I often forget. It was only recently I started waiting a little while before writing a review or opinion of a book. I'm often surprised at how much it affects the review - even waiting as little as two or three days.

When compiling a Best of 09 list, there's more than just the "here's a good book--catch" thing going on. There's theorizing about the future, a bit of sneaky guesswork. Compiling best of lists is like trying to predict which books will be remembered from the year that passed. Which is legitimate, yes, but not exactly the same thing. It's at this point that I realized the key. Some books just need time in order to like them (or hate them). As time passes, some books gain points because of how much you find they've affected you and get in your head. Or you later realize that this book was very unoriginal and builds on the success and style of another book.

I know everybody has his/her own ways for reviewing. I know some readers like to get down their immediate sensations before other opinions cloud their own. I know many will disagree with my claims, probably speaking in favor of Best of lists and the importance of the immediate impression (go on, share your thoughts!). Still, every so often people use the phrase: "This is a book I'll remember for a long time to come." In some cases, I only wish they'd take their time to test their theory.

7 comments:

  1. It definitely happened to me that post-reading a book, I change how I feel about a book. Without realising people change as time goes by, I haven't tried looking back at my reviews, but I will probably grimaced. :)

    ReplyDelete
  2. I've gone an extra step and forgone rating on a one to five scale. I felt that when I read reviews with ratings, the number was the first thing I sought out and that if I found a review that didn't rate on a scale, I actually read the review much more closely. Also, like you pointed out, my ratings can fluctuate a few weeks, months, or years after I've read the book.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Its amazing how a book I thought was great at the time I read it can end up being somewhat forgettable when I look back months or maybe even years later. Or the opposite. And its so hard to tell at the time of writing which way a books going to go.

    ReplyDelete
  4. What a sense of security in an old book which Time has criticised for us!

    James Russell Lowell

    ReplyDelete
  5. Interesting point. Clearly, most of us have had this experience. I rate based on my personal experience of the book at the time. When I look back it is the memory of that experience that I am likely to be judging by. Memory can be a funny thing.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Consider that reading itself has a delay factor, literature requires some time to precipitate. I tend to let my mind roam a bit before I pen the review. Sometimes I find the review more objective after I have waited and allowed more time to reflect. As to my year-end favorites, I always pick the books that have stayed with me.

    ReplyDelete
  7. I certainly agree about the time thing. Over the last two years I can look back and my reading and there are at least 3 or 4 books that I rated about a 3.5 out of 5 (not a bad rating, but at the time wasn't a book that blew me away) and yet those stories have stuck with me in very unique ways, prompting me to re-evaluate my experience with them.

    ReplyDelete

Anonymous comments have been disabled due to an increase in spam.