I have been writing about books that I read. It has been more than 7 years now. However, still, there are moments that I need to think for more than 3-4 hours before I can find a proper beginning for the article or review that I am doing. This happens because it’s not that easy to write about a book you have read or discuss an author you like or don’t agree with. The process of criticism is not easy – though not impossible but certainly a little difficult than what contemporary young bloggers have made it look like. Writing a book review (without a sense of criticism) is not an act of criticism! Writing what the book stands for and how it can serve the literary community might be closer to it than a mere book review.
I have read many books on literary theory and criticism during my English literature courses, BA and MA. However, the action is not as easy as it seems. Action and theory are separate and we need to fill that gap-shape with our experience, practice and perception. You might read as many books on literary theory and criticism as you want. However, unless you practise the act itself, indulge in reading and writing, you cannot be a critic. And then, if you write about a book with a little understanding of criticism, the review will not travel beyond your personal anticipations and interpretations of the book.
A book review must contain things that are beyond your personal interests. And to develop that sense of literature, one must go through books – as many as one can. For example, suppose someone is writing about a novel by a contemporary Indian novelist. To understand the book in a broad sense, one should compare it (the issues and themes) with other books by contemporary novelists so that the readers can get an idea of the book as a whole. Moreover, to understand the work, one also needs to understand the author in various perspectives and the timeline is one of the most important among many. And to understand these perspectives, one needs to understand literature in a particular period, the general nature of the genre being reviewed and also, a sense of the social atmosphere.
I hope that reviewers, with time, will understand the need to go beyond personal interpretations. Critics (or book reviewers in a limited sense) are different from the common readers. They must take responsibility and see a work of literature beyond personal anticipations, likes and dislikes. This will also help the common readers in making the best choices when they need to select a title for their journey by rail or by air. All the best to all the book reviewers!
by Anand Shiv for Intellectual Reader