Monday, December 19, 2022

On Creators Reviewing Creators | A Kaplowitz Media. Think Piece

On Creators Reviewing Creators | A Kaplowitz Media. Think Piece

John Updike. Not only was he a famed novelist, but also a writer of short stories and poetry, as well as of quite noteworthy literary criticism. Yes, literary criticism. A part of literary criticism involves the evaluation of literary works. You know, the reviewing of books, to put it in its simplest terms, book reviews. I also engage in this sort of thing as well as in tobacco criticism--which in its simplest manner would be called cigar reviews. One could split hairs between critique and review but that, for the sake of this, is neither here nor there.

Much more this is that Updike went so far as to write rules for reviewing written works. I'd regale you with those particulars in the here and now, but for the sake of our current purposes it's enough to simply understand that authors will and have quite commonly-so, review/ed other authors to the extent he thought that all to be necessary. In retrospect, I might have done better in spitting that out and moving forward but brevity is for the less charming among us than I.

So why does it appear taboo to think of a cigar manufacturer embarking on publicly reviewing cigars not of his own manufacture? It's a thing just not hardly ever seen and when it briefly is--it's met with no small amount of, well, criticism of the negative variety. Perhaps it's because it could be misused as a promotional tool for one's own company. Granted, like beauty, those condemnations might well be in the eyes of the beholder. But that also is why rules are so important to have and hold. I don't see how adhering to Updike's or even your own moral compass would steer you too terribly wrong.

But if it does, your peers will let you know. Peer review. That's an interesting sort of thing and another way to look at the what-ifs regarding a cigar maker reviewing another cigar maker's wares. I've batted an idea around in my mind for some years; a thought experiment involving the possible benefit of the premium cigar industry forming its own sort of panel with manufacturers and other professionals on a board and essentially self-regulating things that might occur which could yield black eyes.

I won't go into particulars regarding that but for a short for-instance, a self-governing committee could maybe question if wrapping smokes up like candy might be giving the wrong side fodder in our constantly ongoing 'arguments' regarding that which I won't more mention here. We'll leave it as a problem of sending perhaps mixed signals. I am not voicing an opinion there. Nevertheless, perhaps peer reviews are a more independent, come as you are, and leave as you wish--way of accomplishing what this theoretical committee would most likely fall short of. It might also kindly precipitate the demise of some lousy offerings. Put them out of our misery, say.

No one likes their Home Owners Association telling them how to cut their grass and what flags to (not) hang and where or when. Plus, people do have a sweet spot for a rebel. For as long as that lasts, anyway.

But there would be heat with the boys backstage (to use pro wrestling terminology) for sure, and no matter how ethically one went about making a habit of being the maker who reviews makers, they'd get skewered for at least a bit. Hopefully only until people in and out of the industry realize they are doing it on the up-and-up and with good intentions. I'm not a cigar manufacturer and I write cigar reviews within that reality. I write book (story) reviews but the books (stories) I review are not new and therefore not written by anyone near-resembling a colleague or peer. In fact, the authors I look at are predominantly dead-enough that their works are often of the public domain variety.

I also have not yet shared my own stories alongside my thoughts on those. But I will shortly. Perhaps someone will review them once I do, and I can't help but wonder how that might feel.

Putting my money where my mouth is, the still nearest thing for me to do would be to review cigar reviewers. It's a thing I've actually given thought to for years but don't, honestly, ever see myself doing. Why? Well for one, because I don't see how it would be of any benefit or aid to anyone. Writing styles and the enjoyment thereof is far more subjective than what I'm positing insofar as what I'm prattling on about. With what I and my kind do, it's simply best to find a palate similar to yours and listen. Cigars can surprisingly offer objective views and what better to receive those from a person who knows the craft?

I made a small jump there at the end, and will again with this: 'It's all subjective.' That's some bullshit that gets broadcasted on the daily. The thing is it's not all subjective in the world of cigar reviews. Does it burn straight, draw well, and have a balanced profile? Is it predominantly sweet or sour? Those are much more objective discernments than many would for whatever reason prefer you believe.

I digress and so then again, a cigar maker, a novelist--reviewing cigars, novels--is not at all a far-fetched premise, particularly with a code of conduct and some personal ethics in place. Do we really need a public list of rules, then? Nah, it would simply become apparent that each reviewer seems to work from one, and Updike's is a good start. A good rule of thumb is that no one really likes rules of thumb. They're stifling and too often weaponized instead of adhered to.

Circling back, someone reviewing my reviews might not be a fan of my style of writing. That would again be far more subjective than what I've just posited via juxtaposition. Also, we reviewers all do like to wax poetically in our tasting notes and let he who is without sin cast the first pencil lead or wild berry grown from moist mineral-rich land on the south side of a mountain. Recently someone told me that they like my stream-of-consciousness style reviews (or something like that) and I took that as odd because I don't feel it to be an apt description. (This that you're reading now is far more that.)

So maybe everyone is a coward but Updike and his like, he of the balls brassy-enough to level Toni Morrison's 'A Mercy,' or maybe one day I'll let you know what I think of that one fella's take on a Padron, or maybe our controversial rebel reviewer will come along and then more will join (and I do think that would be for the best). Likely, it's simply not for a guy like me to decide. Maybe this is just about opening dialog or someone's inner monologue, and I'm fine with that--the latter being preferable.

I will end with this, however, I did find myself declawing some of my own thoughts along the way of cobbling together this article. Perhaps there's your answer. We all have voices now. What is it that Robert Heinlein said about an armed society? I politely thank you for reading.

::: very :::