Years ago, when I started subscribing to the New Yorker, I was disappointed in the movie review section. The reviewer didn't rate the movies! He just talked about them for a page or two, discussing the choices the director, actors, and screenwriters made, analyzing the pieces, opining on what worked and what didn't, and comparing that movie to others and to current happenings in the world. But he didn't give me any evaluative starrage! A thumb up or down! A quick and easy way to sum up the quality of the film and therefore decide for me if it was worth my time and money! I resented that. For a while.
But after a year or so of reading his reviews, he became my favorite movie reviewer out there. How much I would rather sit inside his discussion of the movie, his observations, even when I disagreed, then have the whole flick discarded as a number. I find it enlightening, fascinating, thought-provoking. But he is a rarity. As are book reviews online that discuss and observe rather than rate. I wonder how the focus on rating is affecting, even transforming, our individual reading experience and attitude toward books.
In my opinion, there are more interesting questions to ask myself after reading a book than what I would rate it. What was the author trying to do? Did she succeed or fail for me? What devices did she use to create her tone, to reveal characterization, to paint a world?
Read the rest.