19 July 2009

Manila Times column for 19 July 2009: "Who’s afraid of the big ‘bad’ critic?"

and now for today...


original post here.

i am actually citing the thingamajig that happened at the philippines free press magazine, one of the oldest magazines in the country with a high reputation when it comes to its literary section. aba, dahil lang kay adam david, nagkagulo sila wahehehehehe. i root for adam hehe dahil kami lang yata ang nag-a-agree about a certain book he reviewed... but that's another blog post :).

nangyari na rin ito dati sa akin. when i was writing for herword.com eons ago--an affiliate of businessworld--my editor asked me to review a certain shakespearean adaptation being staged sa ccp that time. so atak naman ako at may-i-watch with a friend. lo and behold, buti na lang kasama ko ang friend kong "partner in crime" sa pagchachaka ng nga fangeth na shows hahaha. hamfaaaaangeth lang ng ginawa ng direktor! nasayang ang mahusay na translation ng yumaong si rolando tinio. so needless to say, after my review was published online, nagsulat ang direktor ng "letter of pikon" sa editor ko hahaha. at dinedma lang ng editor ko, binigay sa akin yung letter (dahil printed out pa talaga with the direk's signature, hindi email) at yun na yun. hahahaha. naitago ko pa 'ata yun somewhere dito sa files ko... hahahaha! sa ganun na siyang ka-legend sa philippine theater scene, napipikon pa rin pala ang direktor na iyon sa mga reviews. bakit kaya di niya isipin kung bakit PANGETH ang dating ng play niya instead of attacking us reviewers? oh well. one word: ego.

hay. buhay kritik. buhay manunulat. masaya siya!!!!

Sunday, July 19, 2009

By Libay Linsangan Cantor
Who’s afraid of the big ‘bad’ critic?

In a relatively small artistic industry where everyone usually knows each other, how could writers give honest reviews of artists’ works without thinking of offending them? Should writers even think about offending, at all? Shouldn’t writers just do honest reviews, period? This is a tricky situation, especially here in the Philippines.

Months ago, I stumbled upon a controversy like this in a magazine publication, where their hired resident book reviewer incurred the wrath of the friends of authors whose books he reviewed. But his publisher and editor deemed his reviews as publishable, and hence they let the reviewer “do his thing.” This ended in misunderstandings, and the reviewer ended up leaving his post in that magazine. This, for me, was a big loss, given that the reviewer is known to write honestly and calls a spade a spade. If a book is bad, he will write why, and how it became bad. In short, he justifies his reviews, as any good reviewer should. If a reviewer merely gives all praises for a certain work, then I don’t call that a review or a critique, but a “praise release.” The industry is so full of that, so imagine my lament when this honest reviewer was let go just because he spoke truthfully about some books.

Editors hire writers to do reviews because they believe in these writers’ capacity to give honest and important insights about the work being scrutinized. Some publications—no matter who’s writing the review for them—are sought after because the publication’s reputation in dishing out criticisms is respected in the industry. Some writers even seek the opinion of some critics first and even ask for their insights to be put in their book blurbs. There’s nothing wrong with that. But being branded a “bad reviewer” because you criticized a book honestly is another matter. It’s like a writer or an artist can’t accept some truths or differing opinions about their works; pikon, even, as they get irritated by the negative criticism.

When this happens, the subject of the bad review often “attacks” the reviewer, questioning his or her credentials, if indeed he has the “right” or “k” as we say it in Filipino to “properly” review someone’s work of a certain stature. I guess in a way, I agree with this, but this is also being snobbish, actually. Does this mean that if a reviewer doesn’t have the proper artistic background, his or her opinions about a certain artistic work are invalid? What about the so-called common people who merely enjoys these artistic works? What if you ask them for a “review” and they give an honest opinion? Are their thoughts invalid just because they lack the background?

Let’s think about it.

Comments? Suggestions? E-mail libay.scribevibe@gmail.com. She is also at libaycantor.multiply.com.

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