I am frequently asked for advice on how to write reviews. That is, I would be if people would only think to ask for it. The first thing that you, the novice reviewer, must do is to select the style of reviewing that you mean to practice. Here is a potpourri of reviewing styles.
The killer review trashes the work in question. High points are awarded for amusing savagery. Writing killer reviews is a vice.
The upchuck review regurgitates the contents of the work in question in condensed form. Skill at writing upchuck reviews may land you a job writing dust jacket blurbs.
The consumer reports review rates the work in question on some scale, e.g., liked/disliked or good/bad. The better CR reviews include some rating criteria, e.g. lit-chic 10, plot 3, depth 5. CR reviews are sometimes festooned with lit-chic adjectives.
The ideological review analyzes and rates the work in question according to some ideology, e.g. marxist, freudian, feminist, fundamentalist, whatever. Motto: True art is right thinking.
The “I wanted to write an essay” review uses the work in question as an occasion for the reviewer to pontificate on a chosen subject. Useful to the reviewer, interesting to the reader, maddening to the author.
The deep thoughts review practices insight (not to be confused with incest) on the work in question. The best deep thoughts reviews are written by Jack Handey.
The fictional review reviews a non-existent work. The reviewer writes the review that he wants to write without being encumbered by a real work. NY Times reviewers write fictional reviews about real books.
The analytical review takes the work in question apart, analyzes all the pieces, and puts them all back together. The camel is a hippotamus that has gone through an analytical review.
The thoughtful review informs the reader as to the nature of the piece in question and concisely delineates its relevant features. In a few short paragraphs the reader learns the work is one that she or he will want to read. The thoughtful review is interesting in its own right and it is a trustworthy guide. Since there are no known instances of this type of review this category has been added only for the sake of completeness.
This page was last updated September 13, 1996