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Visit the active LitNet platform at www.litnet.co.za


 
Menings | Opinion > SeminaarKamer | Seminar Room > English > Mini-seminars

Are South African critics too soft?


Rosemund J Handler - 2010-12-02

Some South African critics make little or no attempt to judge a book objectively, according to its literary merits. They offer few insights into the theme, characters and possible message of the work; in some cases the review could be written by admiring friends of the writer. Other reviews are poorly written and ill-informed; still others more closely resemble a personal attack rather than literary analysis.

Colour and gender are major factors when it comes to reviewing space: white females, for instance, who constitute the largest group of fiction writers, get the least reviewing space, and are largely overlooked when it comes to local prizes; black males get the most reviewing space and the awards to boot. And local is not necessarily as lekker as it should be, judging by the large chunks of book pages devoted to overseas publications.

Reviewing is a pretty thankless job; as a result, to a degree it has become the preserve of those who enjoy seeing their name in print, and who have the spare time and money (not always the skills) to do it. A local writer I know gives no credence to the reviews of his books. Disillusioned by local critics he describes as “self-appointed”, he simply never reads them.

 

  • Tsamma Season, Rosemund's third novel, was shortlisted for the 2010 Commonwealth Prize, Africa region. The Weekender described Tsamma as “A haunting love song to the Kalahari”. Madlands, Rosemund's first novel, written during her MA in creative writing at UCT, came out in 2006, and her second novel, Katy's Kid, in 2007. All three novels are published by Penguin and are available at good bookstores, and online at kalahari.net , loot.co.za and book.co.za.



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