If You Have Not Anything Nice to Say, Then do Not Say Anything at All
Have you ever heard this statement before? It always jumps into my head when I am writing about things that are controversial or which ask people to respond with some action.
It always runs through my head when I am commenting on blog posts.
It is the word NICE which puts the brakes on my thinking. I am constantly attempting to substitute other words such as: significant, intriguing, positive, or thought provoking.
It is all a matter of definition. So then I move to what is my intention in writing or commenting, this takes away the drone of “nice girls” would not do that. Or my Mother’s constant reminder that there is always someone in the congregation who believes the preacher is personally addressing them with every message; taking it to heart.
Over the years I have had to write critiques, reviews, and papers which evaluate another’s writing, worship service or project given in classes. Sometimes the teacher would share a list of criteria that we were to work from and that gave the student more rules about playing the game.
I have just learned that the novelist John Updike has died. Now here was an amazing writer and informative critic. I was delighted to see that on Wikipedia was his list of criteria for reviewing. I thought it was such a good list I would copy it and paste it right here:
He once laid out his personal rules for literary criticism, in a 1975 New Yorker piece:
- Try to understand what the author wished to do, and do not blame him for not achieving what he did not attempt.
- Give enough direct quotation—at least one extended passage—of the book’s prose so the review’s reader can form his own impression, can get his own taste.
- Confirm your description of the book with quotation from the book, if only phrase-long, rather than proceeding by fuzzy précis.
- Go easy on plot summary, and do not give away the ending.…
- If the book is judged deficient, cite a successful example along the same lines, from the author’s oeuvre or elsewhere. Try to understand the failure. Sure it’s his and not yours?
To these concrete five might be added a vaguer sixth, having to do with maintaining a chemical purity in the reaction between product and appraiser. Do not accept for review a book you are predisposed to dislike, or committed by friendship to like. Do not imagine yourself a caretaker of any tradition, an enforcer of any party standards, a warrior in any ideological battle, a corrections officer of any kind. Never, never…try to put the author “in his place,” making of him a pawn in a contest with other reviewers. Review the book, not the reputation. Submit to whatever spell, weak or strong, is being cast. Better to praise and share than blame and ban. The communion between reviewer and his public is based upon the presumption of certain possible joys of reading, and all our discriminations should curve toward that end.
By the third time I had read it through, I remembered the class I had been handed this same list of criteria and Mr. Updike had not been given credit or even mention for his list. A Faculty had “scraped” something from Mr. Updike – hmmm?
I do not believe that writing a comment on a blog post is a literary review. I still think a comment should be substantive and I still cringe at the word NICE. I want the writer to know that I received something from the post, I want to be creative, and sometimes I just say it was a nice pause.
I think comments are an integral part of blogging, do you think so too? How do they help you write or intrigue your thoughts and ideas?
I am studying this because I am spending the greatest amount of my work time right now working on my comments on other’s blogs because I feel they are so valuable to the success of blogging, but I need to cut down on my time spent in this area. Any Suggestions?