In praise of criticism

Tiny soggy things
If 50 Shades of Grey were actually written by a Seattleite

If you don’t follow the book blogging community closely, you may not be aware that there have been multiple recent incidents of authors stalking and assaulting book reviewers for daring to give their books negative reviews. This is deeply fucked up, and many book bloggers understandably chose to stop reviewing books for their own safety.

All writers have blind spots when it comes to their own work; it’s a psychological fact that we’re awful at spotting our own mistakes. It certainly stings when someone else points out a glaring flaw in the piece you’ve poured your blood, sweat, and tears into–but as an author, it’s your responsibility to deal with that pain like a mature adult.

So in light of everything that’s gone down, I’d like to take a moment to talk about my favorite book and movie critics. These reviewers have made criticism an art form in its own right; their breakdowns of the things they love (or love to hate) are amusing, educational, and sometimes even profound.

Red Letter Media: Plinkett Reviews

Mr. Plinkett is the creation of film reviewer Mike Stoklasa. He’s a crotchety old serial killer who’s taken time off his murder spree to review films in intense, almost excruciating detail. Plinkett doesn’t waste much time trying to determine whether a film deserves critical acclaim; he’s more concerned with whether a piece is effective at holding the audience’s attention and appealing to our emotions. His reviews of the Star Wars prequels are brilliant breakdowns of exactly how the films manages to fail so spectacularly on so many levels. I’d also recommend his reviews of Avatar and Titanic for a nuanced look at the filmmaking techniques that are best for appealing to your audience’s emotions.

Jenny Trout: Jenny Reads 50 Shades of Grey

Jenny Trout is a successful romance writer who’s penned her own kink-focused series. Her chapter by chapter take-down of 50 Shades of Grey is brilliant because she knows¬†exactly what’s not working and why. Jenny lays every misstep out for us: the misused romantic tropes, the unhealthy relationship dynamic, the awkward and inappropriate phrasing, the obvious plagiarism of plot points and characters, and more. Sometimes writers need to see a story taken apart to understand why it works (or in this case, doesn’t work), and this review is a perfect dissection of an imperfect specimen.

Lindy West: Film reviews (various sites)

Most of Lindy West’s articles these days are broader cultural criticism, but every once in a while she picks a movie or book and goes deep into everything that went wrong, and she’s brilliant every time. You’re going to have to read her work for yourself–there’s no way to reduce her quirky, incisive humor to a few pithy sentences. Here, I’ll try: one time she interviewed a fart. I still think about Sam Tarly’s thyroid every time I reread Game of Thrones. Her review of Love Actually is devastatingly correct and contains phrases like “the Misuse-of-government-funds-mobile” and “cock-blocktopus.”

Tiny soggy things
If 50 Shades of Grey were actually written by a Seattleite