December 2nd, 2008

Reviews anew

2.5 months and 10 or so reviews into my life as an author of a book, I can’t be said to have exactly calmed down or anything, but I do have a little bit of perspective on how it feels to have one’s work read by strangers. I have been lucky that the *Once* reviews have been mainly thoughtful and intelligent in both their praise and their criticism. Of course, other people’s readings are not always coincidental with mine, but that’s the great thing about writing fiction: if you do it well enough, myriad interpretations are possible and, indeed, can co-exist quite happily within a single story. I am always thrilled to hear about an understanding of my writing that I’ve never thought of, and sometimes I even like it better than what I originally meant.

People have been generous in sharing their thoughts with me outside of formal reviews. I feel lucky to have so many emails and face-to-face conversations with friends, acquaintances and strangers about my work. One way to become a better writer is to try to find out how much of what you mean is getting through, whether people are getting jokes, what’s pissing them off and what’s making them think. I really do learn when people tell me that stuff, good and bad. It also simply helps, when I sit down to write, to know there’s an engaged and interested set of readers beyond my keyboard.

Ok, so a review can also be an evisceration, and if I were a stronger woman I’d provide an example (but I’m not). Even that sort of thing, though, hasn’t upset me as much as I thought it might. You’ve got to figure, if every book has its ideal reader–the person who is interested in and moved by exactly the sorts of language and event that the book contains–there’s got to be a least-ideal reader, too, who hates all those things. And that person is still going to be legitimite in his or her tastes, much as I might suffer from the occasional bout of hurt feelings.

But to hear from a reader–at a party, via Facebook, or in a review–that he or she *gets* it, understands the story and felt it and thought about it–is amazing enough to trump most anything. And I’ve had so much of that this fall that…well, it’s amazing. Like this:

“In ‘Linh Lai’, and ‘Pho Mi 99’, you get the sense that Rosenblum, winner of the Metcalf-Rooke Award, really worked and suffered to create a thoughtful and authentic separation of state between her the conscious creator, and the non-existing cerebral core of her characters.”
From Peter Davidson’s review at The Danforth Review

I want to see you in the light of morning

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So Much Love by Rebecca Rosenblum

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