There was a discussion last year about how some of us are “book champions” and others are “book critics.” The implied conceit is that somehow, these two roles or temperaments are mutually exclusive. A great summary with her views and links was published on Monica Edinger’s “Educating Alice” blog: The Championship Season.
After much self-examination, I know that, I too, would like to maintain both traits – not as if they’re the two ends on a continuum: if I move toward one end, I’m leaving the other end behind. I’d rather imagine them as baking ingredients which must work together well with just the right amount of each. I hold that it is imperative to examine all aspects of any book I encounter and critically evaluate them: pointing out what works really well and what has perhaps fallen short when engaging in discussion of a book: whether in person with a friend, online on a blog, in print for a magazine, or as a member of an award selection committee. However, it is equally important to have a lot of passion and love and express such support vocally and often, especially when working with the target readership. I often joke with my students that I’m just a paid book pusher: starry-eyed and eager when recommending titles. I will never shy away from praising a good book and champion for great themes, outstanding literary styles, convincing world-building, and layered character development.
That’s why I point out inaccurate racial representations; that’s why I discuss whether the use of certain narrative devices supports the plot or the theme; that’s why I talk and write about books I’m crazy in love with but also about books that raise questions and concerns. I’m not going to choose between the two:
I consider myself a Critical Book Champion!