Thursday, April 9, 2009

Mixed Reviews

You know how some musicians and actors say they never read reviews of their work? I'm beginning to understand why. It's not because they're afraid of facing a bad review. It's because reviews can be so doggone confusing.

Here's what has happened to me several times in the past month or so: I publish or present something, and get a bi-polar (or even tri-polar) reaction from the audience. One guy enthusiastically says a particular work is very scholarly... then another puts even more enthusiasm into his criticisms of how unscholarly it is. Are either of them right? 

Or how about this: a single article is alternatively described, with great conviction by all parties involved, as hilarious, chilling, or thought-provoking by some people (a confusing enough range of reactions), then it gets a tepid response by some others, and elicits a strong negative reaction from a third group, who say it's not creative enough, not saying anything new, not clear, excessively cynical, etc.

How can one piece of work be a comic masterpiece and a boring waste of time... all at once? How can it be the height of creativity and the depth of unoriginality, or an encouraging bit of cynicism? OK guys, am I on candid camera? Is someone just messing with my head here?

Of course, I prefer hearing people say they like my stuff, but the truth is I really like hearing from critics too. In fact, my favorite bit of "fan mail" contained the line "You guys should be ashamed of yourselves." I hung that letter on my office wall for months. 

But I have to admit I'm not quite sure what to make of a situation where I paint a wall red and one person loves how blue it is... while another hates it for being green. Argh!

Like I said, I am beginning to understand now why some people never read their reviews... and I am reminded of something the great American philosopher John Travolta once said, "I wasn't that good, and I'm not that bad..."


dad said...

Dan: methinks that 'beauty is in the eye of the beholder',,,, the reaction is all in the interpretation of reality.... not reality.... love ya, Dad

Kimmer said...

Two points for Dad. >wink<

Variety is the spice of life, right?

Anonymous said...

I agree with your dad. Perception is reality and everyone perceives the same thing differently. Like John Boyd's OODA of oreintation - cultural traditions, genetic heritage, previous experinces, etc. You also have wisdom of crowds working in a group setting.

Passante said...

Many people (based on sales figures) love Coca-Cola. I think the stuff tastes like soapy water and would have a very hard time choking down a glass. Different strokes.

JafaBrit's Art said...

That is the same reaction to my art LOL! and it's strange isn't it. I guess NO reaction would be the worst.

The Dan Ward said...

@Jafa - Agreed! I hate it when something I write doesn't generate even a single written response. I'll take "you guys should be ashamed of yourselves" over silence any day!