Now that I have updated you on kittens and winners, let’s get back to the serious business (so serious there is no picture in this post) of talking about books. As you may have seen, my recent reading of Anthony Trollope’s ‘The Warden’ didn’t really go too well. What I found interesting was that having finished the book and not really having enjoyed it, I didn’t mind saying exactly how I felt (though hopefully backing the up my reasons rather than lazily saying ‘I really, really disliked it’) because the author was dead and the book is a ‘classic’. AJ however, and I hope he won’t mind me sharing this with you, had the complete opposite reaction to me. He felt that because the book has been read, taught and learnt by so many academics out there he felt that regardless of whether he liked it or not, people would judge him if he slated it or not deem his opinion of worth if it wasn’t written to an academic level. These two polar reactions made me wonder if, because as bloggers and not academics in this field, are we really entitled/qualified/at liberty to critique ‘canon classics’ or indeed books in general?
I think we are. Not in an arrogant way or ‘I read so I can say what I like’ way, though there is an element of truth to that with anyone who reads no matter how little or how much because of our tastes, and not in an anti academic way either. I just believe, and my mother is an English teacher and agrees with this, that what qualifies you to have an opinion (be it at a book group, a random chat about books over a coffee, blogs posts or reviews wherever) is if you read and can compare and contrast, and most importantly back up and validate, your reasons one way or the other. An opinion is an opinion after all, I think it’s an informed critique if it is fairly backed up – be it pro or con. No?
It made me think back to the recent post I did after the whole ‘bloggers versus professional reviewers’ (though shock and horror some people do both, gasp!) and the argument that because – sweeping statement alert – bloggers appear not to be academics and haven’t trained for years and years they don’t really know what they are talking about. Here I want to interject a recent thought I had that a lot of best selling writers didn’t go on writing courses, does that mean they can’t write? Anyway, back to the point I was making. Just because I didn’t study English Literature past GCSE (where I got an A* thank you for asking) doesn’t mean that I can’t decide if I think that Anthony Trollope is, in my eyes, a good or bad writer. I know he has sold thousands and thousands of copies, but so have Dan Brown and Fifty Shades of Grey? But this isn’t about bloggers vs. reviewers or indeed academics vs. non academics, it is more about if people really need a qualification to critics a book and in particular a ‘classic’ novel, though really I think novels overall should be included in this post, so maybe I have gone off on a tangent as usual?!?
I think I am really having a small internal argument with myself here, but one I thought I should discuss/brainstorm/therapeutically write out of my system. After all, no one has come down on me like a tonne of bricks and berated me for not liking him, which I am quite shocked at to be honest, up until now (and actually I would be interested in an academics thoughts on my thoughts – if you know what I mean) but there is still time, ha. So, as I have often skirted around this question over the past five and a bit years on and off, I thought I would ask you this…
What, if any, qualifications do you think someone has to have to critique a book be it a classic or not? I will be intrigued to hear your thoughts.