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Mercy, Justice, and Book Reviews

February 29, 2008

I recently bought a bunch of books, intending to review them for a new blog. I was piqued by a discussion on LDSPublisher, by Jeff Savage, about the quality of LDS literature. It needs to be compared to its own genre, he says–don’t compare a cozy mystery to The Lovely Bones. Fair enough. There was also a discussion over at Segullah, in which several people said that there is a lot of great writing in the LDS market, and readers who’ve not enjoyed it in the past should give it another try.

I got fired up. I started a new book review blog. I was going to read and review all the 2008 Whitney nominees. I read an old Jack Weyland to whet my appetite, get me started. Then I dug into the first one.

And here’s the thing. I spent all of college analyzing texts. I did not graduate with a marketable skill, but back in the day I could take twenty lines of good poetry in Spanish, English, or Latin, and write a fifteen page paper on all its nuances. That skill is not worth much now, but it was a lot of fun back then. I don’t analyze everything I read to that level anymore. It’s tedious, and I read for pleasure, not work. But there’s a level of pickiness that has stayed, and I expect it will always be with me. So I can embark on something like wanting to read a bunch of Whitney nominees, wanting to enjoy them, and then be unable to continue with it, for this reason:

The very first book I read was impossible for me to get through without picking things apart. Although I love romance (hello! How many times have I watched those Jane Austen movies? Too many.), I have never read much LDS Romance. I wanted to see if this book was different. Stepping back a bit, I can see that this particular book is probably an excellent book in the LDS Romance genre. But I had so many issues with it. And I couldn’t write a review that honestly expressed my opinion of it without being … super, super picky. And coming across as … as mean? too critical? I don’t know. Obsessed with the justice that makes me want all LDS writing to be top-notch writing, without the mercy that says, hey, lots of people will enjoy this book, ease up.

So I have come to a decision: I’d like to review books on this personal blog occasionally. I’d like to read the rest of the books I bought and see if any of them work for me. I’m going to continue to read some of the 2008 Whitney nominees. But I’m only going to review the ones I love, the ones that stand up to all my picking (I don’t do it on purpose, it’s just habit. I open every book wanting to enjoy it.), the ones that teach me how to be a better writer.

Someday when I have buckled down and actually written a book, I hope the bloggers will have mercy on me too.

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