A Review of Malahat-Sponsored Workshop: Whither--or Wither--the Book Review? A Panel Discussion
by Arleen Paré

The Malahat Review has started offering workshops.   In a period of arts cuts, threats to print media, and increasing reliance on sound-bites, The Malahat is expanding its purview.  An excellent strategy, in my opinion, and one which demonstrates their commitment to the literary arts.  

In November, I attended the first: “Whither – or Wither – the Book Review.”  We packed the back room at the Oak Bay Library. Rhonda Batchelor introduced the workshop’s purpose and panel members Jamie Dopp, UVic Lit Professor; David Kosub, poetry blogger; Ruth Linka, publisher; and Amy Reiswig, columnist. 

Panel commentary was wide-ranging, but all agreed on two points: one, reviews are essential; and two, they receive insufficient attention. The panel offered advice on how to write good reviews: be concise; read an author’s work widely; avoid evaluation; avoid cliché; and do explore issues about the nature of writing.  Ruth Linka discussed the continued benefit of reviews for small press publications, while Jamie Dopp elucidated the difference between reviews and literary criticism. David Kosub and Amy Reiswig commented on the differing review requirements and opportunities on the net and in journalism, respectively.  All agreed on the need to be respectful. 

A lively Q & A followed, and audience feedback was encouraging.  Participants felt inspired.  One commented that she better understood the importance of reviews to the literary conversation.  Another wondered about organizing an informal reviewers’ group.  One writer  said that the workshop helped her positively link reviews and promoting her own writing, and left her with a sense of responsibility to write reviews for fellow writers. 

The workshop was stimulating, a most successful beginning to the new Malahat plan for greater involvement in the local literary community.