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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?


Richard de Nooy - 2010-12-03

When I first started blogging, I decided to review the books of authors I had met while promoting my own book in South Africa. I opted to write open letters, mainly because this ensured a more personal touch and greater sensitivity to the feelings of the authors. By posing questions or raising issues about their books, I hoped to prompt discussion. In some instances, this proved highly successful, sparking to a broad overview of opinions that offered new insight. In other instances, the attention was less than welcome, raising doubts and questions as to the ethics of authors reviewing authors. The most important thing, in all instances, is that the reviews appeared online, allowing others to post their own (contrary) opinions, which was the whole point of the exercise.

Constructive criticism, openly expressed, not only helps us become better writers, but also ensures that readers know that they can rely on reviewers to express their opinion honestly and fully. I also believe that authors should be less sensitive when confronted with reviews written by people they know. We all have different roles in life. When I coach my son’s soccer team, I tend to be quite strict and noisy, but I also offer constructive criticism and compliments, and I am delighted when I see the kids developing their skills and insight into the game. But once we have left the pitch (whether it be after a match or training session) I become my usual self and the kids have no problem approaching me with questions and complaints. In short, I can be a critical coach, a loving father and a good friend, without falling prey to schizophrenia.

I am thrilled whenever anyone takes the time to express an opinion about my writing. And I often find that negative reviews spark more discussion than positive ones. In short, I welcome any opinion on my writing, regardless of whether it is positive or negative.

 

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