Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

To Review the Reviewer

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Over the years I’ve reviewed a lot of fiction for a variety of publications, ranging from The Globe and Mail to Canadian Literature. That was an extension of my job, teaching university and working as a critic. Now, my major occupation is writing mysteries. I think my past has made me less anxious about reviewer response to my own work and at the same time more pleased by the accolades. But I find myself in a curious position. I still write the occasional review. Do I review as a critic or as a creative writer? A mystery writer? Or as an objective reader (even though there is no such thing)? Mystery reviewers, on the whole, tend to be more generous than literary reviewers: concerned less with poetics than plot, and focused more on character than characterization, more on clarity than originality, more on suspense and surprise than on illumination or catharsis. Should my reviews be based on what I try to do as a writer, or what I like, personally, as a reader? Or on what my readership, limited as it may be, expects? What if generosity and candour are incompatible? I might as well keep on writing reviews; it helps hone my skills, writing mysteries. But should I publish them, or consign them to the bottom drawer (if I still had a desk, which in the age of laptops seems anachronistic)? Don’t know. Just thinking out loud. That’s what reviewers do. Writers think and feel and wrestle with copula verbs and ineffable truths. Thinking is good; too much, though, leaves the soul dried as autumn leaves. So: a revision. Good reviewers are writers. I think I’ll continue to do both.

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John Moss

John Moss's latest book is Grave Doubts (Dundurn Press). His website is

Go to John Moss’s Author Page