Reviews and the benefits of criticism

We all love our kudos, but it’s the brickbats that can make us think. Let me explain. Reviews of Back Burning have been glowing, but we all know that readers react to stories in different ways. I was moved when I read a very honest and balanced review of my collection of stories in the April issue of The Short Review. It told me something about perceived didacticism and how different generations read stories. We also live in a post-modern time of open endings. Events around the Second World War, as well as those in the lead up to the demise of what used to be called Yugoslavia, still may have visceral links for the generations born in the 40s and 50s, to which I belong; but for younger generations these periods are history. I have taken note of the reviewer’s comments on stories about these periods. As a writer I can write about anything, but first must come story; the need to tell the tale must allow the story to unfold in such a way that the reader can be seduced into the fictive dream rather than instructed to enter it. It’s a tough call, but it’s one upon which to reflect.

One thought on “Reviews and the benefits of criticism

  1. Very interesting. I have stumbled on this issue in my writing group about my new novel. It’s set in Cambodia, but refers back to events in the States during the 60’s. Some of the younger people (ie barely 40 years old) knew about it once I explained, but it wasn’t at the front of their brains as I thought it might be. To be honest, I was surprised! Also, they knew about Pol pot and the Khmer Rouge, but it was just facts without any automatic emotional pull. Other more recent genocides have taken its place in their hearts and minds….

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