Sunday, January 23, 2011

Criticism vs Reviewing

I think reviewers are offering advice to consumers, while critics are engaging in a more canonical discussion.
--David Welsh

This was going to be my Quote of the Week, but two things changed my mind. 1) It's two months old, and 2) instead of just throwing it out there, I want to spend a little time with it. Usually when I pick an old quote it's just because I'm late seeing it. I saw this one when Dirk Deppey posted it back in November, but all I did with it at the time was think, "Hm, that's interesting" and go about my business. I haven't quit thinking about it since then though.

As someone who writes a lot of reviews, it's a really useful description of two reasons to do that. I've seen my role as advice-offering for a long time, but ever since I read David's comment I've been thinking more and more in terms of canon. As in: which comics deserve a place on the list of great work? The difference is art vs. commercialism. Criticism engages the work purely from an artistic standpoint. Reviewing, on the other hand, has commercial interests: Should you buy this? Had someone pointed this out to me earlier, I imagine I would've changed my motivation for writing about comics a long time ago.


Erik Johnson Illustrator said...

It does ring true. When I write my movie reviews, if I like it I talk very little about the plot because I want audiences to be surprised and enjoy it like I enjoyed it. If I reviews something bad, I go full spoiler, since I'm mad and want to get it all out there.

It really is about advising others as well as being in love with the sound of my own voices. Though it is easier to pick out flaws than to praise at times.

Steve Miller said...

I've always drawn a line between reviewing and criticism, and I've always made sure to point out that I am NOT a critic but a reviewer.

In my opinion, criticism is more intellectually rigorous than what I engage in typically. Although the same is true of most so-called and self-described critics these days, even at major publications.

(BTW, a few months back I set my mind to pitching a book of comic book reviews/criticism. But when I tried examining titles I consider great in a critical mindset, I came to the conclusion that comics are best approached as a reviewer and abandoned the project.)

John Rozum said...

I've done a bit of both. Unlike most reviewers/critics, I don't get a lot of enjoyment out of trashing a work no matter how much it deserves it. My rule of thumb is I'd prefer to only review or criticize stuff that I enjoy so that I can sing its praises, either in a recommended sales pitch as a reviewer or in a more comprehensive way as a critic. I find it's more important to steer people towards something worthy that they might enjoy rather than steer them away from something crappy.


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