On Reviews

Reviews are challenging to write and dull to read. There, I said it.

I’ve often struggled with the idea of writing/reading reviews. On the one hand, writing and publishing a review is a great way to pad your list of publications and can increase the attention given to a new work (especially if it’s from an emerging or marginalized author), and reading reviews can be a great way to find new favorites. On the other hand, who wants to read 50,000 beautiful words just to write 500 less beautiful ones summarizing them? And do you really need to read a glowing review of a book that’s already short-listed for several awards and/or on the best-sellers list? You know it’s good, just go read that book!

This reveals the first challenge: finding the right book to review. Came out two years ago? Old news. No one’s reviewing it? Might not be very good. Someone’s already said all there is to say? Why didn’t you review it sooner? This is why at The ALP we’ve decided to start reviewing books—often debuts—by emerging authors—often previous contributors to or editors of antilang. & soundbite—that fit our mandate literary concision. Knowing the authors also makes it easier for a small lit mag such as ourselves to get a hold of advanced review copies and allows us to give each review a personal touch.

The second challenge was finding a style that we would want to write and that readers (we hope) enjoy reading. We believe all writing should be poetic, that beauty ought to be found in all genres, styles, and formats. So, we decided to take a creative approach to review writing, to imbue our reviews with a certain aesthetic, and to mirror their structure on our slogan: Good. Short. Writing. That is, [Descriptor]. [Descriptor]. [Noun]. This slant facilitates a focused reading on the core of each book, a close consideration of the essentials of style and structure. This tactic keeps us concise while leaving room for other readers’ reviews.

Now that we’ve taken a half dozen attempts at this technique, we’re opening up for submissions. Send us your Good Short Reviews of concise creations (or longer works that collect brevities—story cycles, suites of poems, novellas, etc.) on Submittable, employing our slogan’s syntax as a template, and be sure to check out the books we’ve reviewed if you haven’t already. We look forward to reading about what you’ve been reading, and fostering a space for reviews of a more creative vein.

-Jordan

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