Er y yerrid, ta mee er geau beggan traa smooinaghtyn er barelyn lioaragh. Lhaih mee art ny ghaa, as tweet ny ghaa, hug orrym y smooinaghtyn shen. Cha noddym loayrt er y teihll foalley, agh er yn eddyrvoggyl, ta'n chooish shoh ny bun arganeys ennagh, as ny keayrtyn t'ee cur ferg er sleih. Er lhiam dy vel scanshyn mooar ayn bentyn rish bun-eieyn er dooghys as dean baghteyrys.
Cha noddym cur freggyrt feeu da lheid y chooish chramp, er chor erbee. Ny yei shen, by vie lhiam screeu beggan* mychione eddinyn baghteyrys, caghlaaghyn aght dy heiltyn barel lioaragh, ny deanyn oc, as cre'n fa ta mee screeu barelyn 'syn aght reih aym.
* Breag lhome. Screeu mee rieau "beggan" er cooish erbee?
Rish blein ny ghaa ta mee er screeu barelyn lioaragh ass towse. She ayrn ard-scanshoil ny Shaleeyn Lhaih v'ayn; cre'n feeu dou lhaih thousane lioar mannagh gooin lhiam ben erbee jeu? Agh foddee nagh verragh oo "baghteyrys" agh er beggan beg jeu. Chammah's shen, ta mee lhiah ymmodee barelyn lioaragh; as reesht, er lhiam dy vel mee lhaih rangyn as fo-rangyn er lheh jeu.
Myr shen, hoshiaght, lhig dooin meenaghey termeeaght gollrish oayllee yesh. Verrym dhyt meenaghey "barel lioaragh" (fo: "barel") son ymmyd ny h-artyn shoh ynrican.* Foddee: "cowrey jeh barel y screeudeyr er lioar ennagh, as shen neuphreevaadjagh". As er lhiam nagh noddyms jannoo ny share.
* Cha nel mee cur fockleyr orrym pene; jus cooney lhien nyn jees toiggal ny ta mee çheet er tra loayrym er "barelyn".
Dys toiggal cre'n fa ta mee gra shen, lhig dooin cur geill da kuse dy haishbynyssyn t'ayn jeh barelyn (dgms, reddyn verragh shiartanse dy 'leih "barelyn" orroo...). Er lhiam dy vel ymmodee faghteyryn ayn ta tessen er y cheilley, as oddagh oo jannoo rang-oardraghey barel lioaragh jeu - agh cha nel eh foym eab er lheid y chooish ard-voyrnagh y yannoo, bwooise da Jee!
Eisht, y mess s'inshley: shoh barel y Ghuardian er Rules for Werewolves (reih gyn tort erbee!) as er lhiam dy beagh peiagh erbee coardail rish shen. Ta'n art shoh er Venetia liorish Heyer ny barel myrgeddin. As shoh barel peiagh ennagh er The Clown Service.
Ta'n chied varel cur coontey giare jeh toshiaght y bun-skeeal??? as cummey cadjin y noaskeeal; t'eh cur geill da cooishyn scanshoil, as ginsh dooin briwnys y screeudeyr er y skeeal chammah's y schlei focklagh???. Ta'n nah varel loayrt er tro er lheh ny lioar, as soilshaghey magh y lane vunskeeal. Ta'n trass varel soilshaghey briwnys er quallid, gyn oyr erbee.
Shen sampleyr mie jeh'n doilleeid vees ayn, er lhiam!
Ah, cor elley: vees yn art shoh bentyn rish barelyn eddyrvoggyl son y chooid smoo. Ta daa oyr ayn. Hoshiaght, cha nel mee lhaih meanyn clouit, as eer tra lhaih mee ad, cha dug mee monney geill da'n ayrn lettyragh: t'ad ny share nish er lhiam, agh foast t'ad currit da bea-skeealaght, shennaghys, as farskeeal lettyragh, as ta mish lhaih fansee, farskeealaght heanse, skeealaght ghraih, skeealaght whaagh as YA.
Agh y nah oyr, shen dy vel meanyn clouit un-çheuagh trooid as trooid: ta possan feer veg dy screeudeyryn screeu barelyn rere reillyn y cholught. Son y chooid smoo, ta arganeaght er barelyn ry-akin raad ta ymmodee screeudeyryn barel as ymmodee lhaihderyn as caghlaaghyn eie oc.
Sorçhyn dy varel t'ayn
Goym toshiaght lesh jeeaghyn er y scansh smoo baghtal: cooid y varel, as geill er lheh currit da wheesh t'ad soilshaghey magh mynphoyntyn y vun-skeeal. Ah, cha nel mee gra dy nee rangyn discreajagh t'ayn, agh beoynyn. S'cosoylagh dy vel barel er lheh beggan ny s'crampey.
Ta'n chied sampleyr soilshaghey dooin y sorçh smoo 'classicagh', foddee. She art beg t'ayn, jus kuse dy veeryn. T'eh soilshaghey magh bun y skeeal, ny karracteyryn as yn soiaghey t'ayn, chammah's blass cadjin y skeeal. T'eh cur geill da snaie ny ghaa y vun-skeeal, as da taghyrt er lheh ny ghaa, agh cha nel eh soilshaghey mynphoyntyn. Ta'n screeudeyr cur briwnys yiare dooin, as ny keayrtyn t'eh rheynn y vriwnys myr schlei focklagh, bun-skeeal, soiaghey as/ny karracteyryn.
Ta'n nah horçh ny baghteyrys, foddee. She feeuid lettyragh ta bun lheid yn art. T'ad cur er enney dhyt y skeeal, agh ta'n bun-skeeal ny fo-chooish ayns shoh. Bare lhieusyn cur geill da dean y lioar (rere barel y screeudeyr) as my t'ee dy chooilleeney ny dyn. Ta aght screeuee as strughtoor y vun-skeeal scanshoil dys lheid y vynscrutaghey, as myr shen dy cadjin t'ad soilshaghey magh feaysley folliaghtyn as skeaylley doilleeidyn, gyn mian dy yannoo shen hene, agh son dy yeeaghyn dy cruinn er ny h-oltyn as ny h-aghtyn. T'ad oltscarrey karracteyryn dys feddyn magh my t'ad cooilleeney y currym t'oc 'sy skeeal, as my shee sampleyr schleioil jeh'n ard-chaslys t'ayn.
Ta'n barel shoh cliaghtey goaill stiagh aaraaghyn as mynscrutaghey ad, dys taishbyney eieyn scanshoil 'syn argane. As anaase oc er schlei as cummaght lettyragh, shimmey fer ta loayrt er lioaryn elley yn ughtar, er y failt hooar ee, as er co-heks y lioar (dy ghra myr shen, shennaghys y genre, cooishyn hene-veashnyssagh, as troyn sheshoil). Dy cadjin t'ad cosoylaghey y lioar rish lioaryn elley myr cosoylee genre, ny myr bun cummaght lhiassit. Ta'n Times Literary Supplement ny hampleyr fondagh, agh shimmey bloggey ta screeuit 'syn aght cheddin. Dy jarro, gyn cagliagh erbee er mooad yn art, ta bloggey lhiggey dhyt seiy stiagh 'syn argane gyn boirey erbee.
Ta'n trass rang soit er ny ta'n lioar bentyn rish: cooishyn, seihll as karracteyryn. Dy cadjin, cha nee lettyraght hene ee ard-anaase ny screeuderyn, agh cooishyn er lheh. Myr sampleyr, ta pabyr-naight Yorkshire screeu barelyn er lioaryn soit ayns Yorkshire er y fa dy vel anaase ardjynagh ayn; ta ynnyd-eggey feminee soilshaghey magh barelyn lioaragh er bun cooishyn keintyssagh.* Cha nel wheese anaase oc er y schlei focklagh t'ayn; ta dean elley oc. T'adsyn son loayrt er cooid, ny mynphontyn y skeeal ny'n aght ta'n ughtar dellal rish cooish ennagh. Ny keayrtyn ta giare-choontaghyn y skeeal siyragh dy liooar, agh t'ad cur geill da mynphontyn ta scanshoil da'n chooish t'ayn, as dy cadjin t'ad ganchoodaghey taghyrtyn as eiyrtyssyn y skeeal gyn boirey. T'ad cliaghtey goaill stiagh aaraaghyn as mynscrutaghey ad dys soilshaghey magh argane ennagh.
As lhig dou gra nish, nagh b'ymmydoil eh fockle veagh scarrey y daa cheeal shen!
Foddee oo cur mioleyder er y cherroo rang. Ta'n screeudeyr cur enney da'n skeeal as ard-charracteyryn, as soilshaghey dooin dooan y skeeal. Cre'n hobbyl t'er ny karracteyryn? Cre'n fa veagh anaase oc orroo? Shoh ard-chooid y violeyder. Dy cadjin ta'n screeuderyn moylley (ny cremey) reddyn er lheh: schlei focklagh, ny karracteyryn, seihll y skeeal, as ny keayrtyn, çheet dy keiltynagh er taghyrtyn as reayrtyssyn woaill orroo dy lajer. Cha nel ad soilshaghey magh y bun-skeeal - veagh shen broilley y yeearree dy lhaih ny smoo. Ta aaraaghyn ayn ny keayrtyn dys taishbyney yn aght screeuee, ny dys cur trimmid er reddyn ymmydoil 'sy skeeal. T'adsyn giare son y chooid smoo, as ta blass moyllee orroo; t'adsyn gollrish ny focklyn-moylee son y chooid smoo.
Ta'n wheiggoo horçh ny haglym dy 'ys er y skeeal as karracteyryn, chammah's freggyrtyn y screeudeyr. Ta ny sloo strughtoor 'syn aght shoh; cha nel boayl co-haglee echey myr bun y strughtoor. Ta kuse jeu goaill stiagh myn-fys as aaraaghyn. Cha nee barelyn moal t'ayn; ta oyryn fondagh ayn dy reih lhaid y varel, as loayrm orroo ny s'anmey.
Ta kuse dy reddyn lane yiare ayn foast ta sleih cur "barel" orroo ny keayrtyn: rollageyn, earrooyn ass queig ny jeih, ny briwnyssyn un-raagh (rere y treeoo chiangley heose). She giarrid ta ard-hro ny barelyn shoh. Son y chooid smoo t'ad jus soilshaghey magh barel cadjin y screeudeyr, agh ny keayrtyn t'ad cur stiagh giare-choontey beg jeh'n teihll ny bun-skeeal t'ayn.
Cre'n fa dy vel caghlaaghyn aght barel lioaragh ayn?
Myr shen, ta caghlaaghyn sorçh dy varel lioaragh ayn; agh cre'n fa?
Er lhiam dy nod oo ad cowraghey ard-oyryn ny scanshyn shoh eddyr aghtyn screeuee barel lioaragh myr dean as ynnyd - agh ta kiangley eddyr y jees.
Hoshiaght, ta oyryn er lheh ec dagh screeudeyr barel lioaragh son screeu. T'ad son cooilleeney red ennagh, ny son oyr sthie ny son oyr mooie.* Da caghlaaghyn dean nyn mun scanshyn bentyn rish liurid, cooid as ard-anaase y varel.
*Dy ghra myr shen, ny keayrtyn ta'n brod hene anaase y screeudeyr hene er loayrt er far-skeealaght heanse gothagh; as ny keayrtyn ta brod çheumooie ayn, myr sampleyr, t'ou faillit myr barelagh lioaragh Emshir Hiaghtinoil Valley Accanagh.
Y nah oyr, shen dy vel barelyn lioaragh goll er soilshaghey ayns caghlaaghyn ynnyd, as ta normyn ayn (ga dy vel ad neuvaghtal dy mennick, gyn reillyn oikoil erbee). She cooish chramp t'ayn: foddee sleih screeu rere normyn ynnyd ennagh, ny reih ynnyd rere ny ta screeuit oc; as ta'n red cheddin bentyn rish ny deanyn oc.
Chammah's ooilley shen, myr treeoo oyr, ta bareyn lioaragh screeuit ec caghlaaghyn peiagh! Agh ta shen bentyn rish aght as ymmyrkey, ny share na cooid, er lhiam.
Bunskeeal: Ta mee cliaghtey jannoo ymmyd jeh "bun-skeeal" myr Gaelg son "plot" 'sy Vaarle - dy ghra myr shen, straih dy haghyrtyn smoo scanshoil y skeeal, as ad kianglt liorish oyr-as-eiyrtys.
Schlei focklagh: Ta mee jannoo ymmyd jeh "schlei focklagh" ayns shoh son dy eddyraghey ny focklyn, raaghyn as strughtooryn reiht ec yn ughtar (foddee oo gra, troyn aestheetagh), jeh troyn elley y skeeal. Er lhiams dy vel "aght screeuee" goaill stiagh aase ny karracteyryn, bieauid, cosoyley, a.r.e.
Recently I've been thinking a certain amount about book reviewing. This is a topic that (on the internet at least) raised a certain amount of hackles, causes some debate, and runs into some pretty fundamental philosophical differences about just what a book review is - and should be.
I don't pretend that I can answer any of those questions. But I do want to talk a little bit about some different ways to think about book reviews, some different purposes they serve, and why I review books the way I do.
For the last few years I've done an awful lot of book reviewing; it's an essential part of my Reading Projects. Very little of it is, perhaps, what you might think of as "book reviews". I also spend quite a lot of time reading book reviews, and again, I tend to read some quite specific subtypes of review.
To begin with, then, I'm going to throw down a very broad definition of "book review" for the purposes of this article. It would be something like: "a non-private indication of the reviewer's opinion of a book". And I think that's the best I can probably do.
To think about why, let's consider some of the ways book reviews (or, things that a reasonable number of people would probably consider to count as "book reviews") manifest. I think there are several intersecting factors that you could probably use in a classification scheme of reviews, but I'm not trying for anything that grandiose.
To pick some low-hanging fruit: this Guardian review of Rules for Werewolves (chosen 100% at random) is considered a review. So is this discussion of Heyer's Venetia. So is this review of The Clown Service.
The first item summarises the early stages of the plot, and the broad outlines of the novel; it touches on some of the book's themes and gives the reviewer's opinion of both story and writing. The second item discusses a particular aspect of the book, and reveals the overall plot. The third simply states a verdict and gives a star rating.
That's a pretty good introduction to the difficulties we're facing here.
Also, for further reference, this post is going to concentrate primarily on internet reviews. Primarily that's because I just don't touch print media these days, and even when I did, I paid virtually no attention to the literature pages - although they seem better these days, newspapers tend to focus on literary fiction, history and biography, whereas I mostly care about genre lit. However, the other important thing is that print media is essentially unilateral, featuring a very small number of reviewers conforming to in-house guidelines; most of the issues with reviewing arise where there are multiple reviewers and multiple readers, each bringing their own expectations.
Some types of review that exist
I'm going to begin by just looking at the most obvious difference: the content of the review, with particular reference to how much detail is disclosed. Um, these are not necessarily discrete categories, they're just different tendencies; an individual review is usually more complex and aims to do multiple things at once.
The most 'classic' type of review is perhaps the first one I cited. It is relatively short, normally a few paragraphs. It introduces the premise, characters and setting of the story, and the general tone. A few specific incidents or plot threads are mentioned, but it doesn't discuss many details. The reviewer gives their overall verdict, and sometimes separates this into verdicts on the writing, the plot, the setting and/or the characters.
A second type is what you might call a critique. This type is focused on the technical merit of the book. Although the story will be introduced, the plot is secondary. The focus tends to be on what the book is (in the reviewer's opinion) trying to do, and how well it succeeds at that. Writing style and plot structure are discussed, which means the solution of mysteries or the resolution of obstacles may be revealed, though only in passing. Characters may be analysed, generally to assess whether they do their job in the narrative, or whether they are well-crafted examples of their archetype. Quotes are often included and analysed to highlight key points in the discussion. Because they are interested in technique and impact, these reviews often discuss the author's previous work, reception, and the context (genre history, autobiographical, social) of the book. Comparisons to other books, either as genre comparators or as possible influences, are common. The Times Literary Supplement might be a good example, but bloggers also write in this style, not least because the lack of word limits gives the freedom to really delve into a book.
A third category of reviews is mostly interested in what the book handles: its themes, setting and characters. The reviewers may be people interested in particular issues, rather than people interested in books (if you see what I mean). For example, a Yorkshire newspaper might review books set in Yorkshire because of the local interest, and a feminist website might feature book reviews with an eye to gender issues. These reviews have much less interest in the merits or otherwise of the wordcraft, because it's not their main focus; they want to discuss content, either the specific details of a story, or the way topics are handled and presented. Overviews of the story may be cursory, but they discuss important details and often reveal the events and outcomes of the story. Quotes are often included and analysed to highlight key points in the discussion. Let's call these 'thematic' for ease of reference.
I say "wordcraft" here, just because "writing" isn't specific. The way a character or plot arc is presented is part of the "writing", the overall structure of a novel is part of the "writing".
A fourth category is what you might call a teaser. The reviewer introduces the story, then outlines the protagonists and provides the story hook. What challenges does the character face? Why should we care about them? These are the primary contents of the teaser. The reviewer typically includes praise for particular things: the writing, the characters, the worldbuilding, and perhaps veiled references to certain scenes or events that made a strong impact on them. Details of the plot are not provided, because they would take the edge off the urge to learn more. Quotes are sometimes provided as examples of the writing style, or to highlight intriguing parts of the story. Generally these are short and overtly positive. They tend to resemble the back blurb.
A fifth type of review is a collection of information about the story and characters, as well as some of the reviewer's responses. This overview style is generally less structured than others, as there's no clear focus to structure the review around. It may include quite detailed information or quotes. There are reasons why this may be chosen; it's not simply bad reviewing, as I'll discuss later. Um... 'miscellany', I think.
Some very short things are also sometimes treated as reviews: star ratings, or the single-sentence verdicts as exemplified by my third link above. The most obvious feature of the content here is how little there is. Generally these simply give a very broad overall impression, sometimes also with a very brief summary of the setting and/or plot. 'Soundbite'.
Why do review styles differ?
Okay, so there are a number of quite different styles of review. But why?
I think the primary reasons for the great differences in reviewing style can be summarised as the aim and the venue (these are interconnected).
The first is that, very simply, reviewers have reasons for writing reviews. They want to achieve something, for intrinsic or extrinsic reasons.* Different aims lead to differences in the length, content and focus of the review.
*Which is to say, the motivation may come from the reviewer's personal interest in talking about gothic sci-fi, or it may be an external incentive, such as being employed to review books for the Bleatingthwaite and District Times.
The second is that reviews appear in different places, and there are (sometimes hazy) norms for what reviews in particular venues should look like. This is a little complicated, because reviewers may write to the norms of a particular venue, or may choose a venue based on what they've written, and that also relates to their reasons for writing a review.
I suppose a tertiary reason is simply that reviews are written by different people, but that's more about style and attitude than content.