May 26th, 2006


Reviews and Pornography

The first comes from Damien Broderick on the ASif Forums:

"What reviews apparently don't do, I'm told, is make the slightest blip on sales figures. Even killer reviews apparently don't dent books that you'd think should have been strangled to death in the womb, and the most glorifying praise evidently doesn't shift although many extra copies. Word of mouth, that seems to be the ticket."

Which is interesting, I tend to think. I'm just getting this handle of the reviewing thing, and while it's a sort of interesting past time thing I've begun for reasons a bit too long and complex to get into right here, I'm not sure I agree with Broderick. A review helps word of mouth, surely? And it influences people, yes? Either way, one of the things I've discovered is that, in its own way, good reviewing is its own piece of work. It can be read independently from the work itself, though of course, if one has read the work, they join the conversation and debate about it. One of the things that I enjoyed about writing my phd was how I could offer a view of a piece of work for a larger critique, or to use it to reference social and cultural issues. It's one of those things that I want to bring to the bits I do now, though in a variety of ways.

But anyhow, reading Broderick's bit, I wondered, really, what is it that people think reviews should do, and what it is that people want them to do.

The second comes from Alan Moore on his new graphic novel with artist Melinda Gebbie, Lost Girls:

We are also demonizing any reference to child sexuality. We are denying that children actually have a sexuality, which I think probably doesn't jibe with our personal sexual experiences. Children have a sexual imagination from the age of four or five, and at the same time, as we have all this outcry, we also have a society that covertly is sexualizing children, and is using children as a form of sexual currency. The Spice Girls can have every 8-year-old in the country wanting to really, really really want to zig-a-zig-ha, without having any idea what that phrase means - not that I have either. You've got this sexualization of young children in their 'pornstar' T-shirts and this is apparently okay, as is having a magazine called 'Barely Legal,' where you've got models the publisher promise are 18, and that isn't really the point. The point is they look very young. So the impulse in the mind of the reader is exactly the same, it's just got this veneer of respectability that no laws are apparently being broken.

"So you can get these really unhealthy undercurrents building up in society, encouraged by our culture, and they can erupt in really unpleasant ways. Whereas, perhaps, if we can look at those urges in the safe arena that is afforded by pornography in the form of writings or drawings about wantons. That is just one of the issues that can be talked about. What are we actually feeling here? And is it okay to think about things? Is it possible to police the sexual imagination? No, I don't think it is.
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