I’m sure customer reviews have been the subject of many a blog commentary since the fateful day when an evil marketing genius at Amazon realised that very few people go out of their way to slag off cultural artefacts they don’t like, but many will find the time to rave about their own taste if only you give them a platform and a little encouragement (the gold star of becoming a top ten or top one hundred or even top thousand reviewer). As a blogger of independent breeding and as someone who always predicts casualties when the guerrilla forces of art enter into skirmishes with the disciplined, state-sponsored army of business (or is it the other way round now?), I find it hard to understand why people put themselves at the service of Amazon rather than set up on their own. Granted, they find a ready-made audience unavailable elsewhere, and certainly their commentary can be as helpful as that of the traditional critical media, once you unpick agendas and prejudices and contrast the whims of their taste with your own. And at least you don’t have to spend any time working out which readership tastes the editor says the reviewer generally should not offend.
For my two pennyworth on the subject I would like to take the existing two customer reviews for the revised edition of Nick Cave’s Complete lyrics as the starting point. One is by Jason Parkes, who – as amazon.co.uk’s number 7 reviewer – haunts my every online purchasing move, and no doubt yours too. He generally dispenses accurate and considered information, despite five stars being his default setting (just like Caroline ‘three stars’ Sullivan in the Guardian) and a tendency to think that everything Julian Cope’s ever done is great. But I still find myself asking why, even as I make my latest Amazon purchase. Why would you subjugate yourself to the rivers of money flowing into Amazon’s coffers? Perhaps his habit formed before blogging properly took off. It can be hard to jump ship and swim for the nearest isolated tropical island paradise, with just macaques and parrots for company. A publishing platform can make copy addicts of us all, after all.
The other review, by ‘A reader’ and is hilariously serious. If it were a blog posting it would merely be serious and to some extent in keeping with both its notional subject (Nick Cave) and its actual subject (the critical interpretation of lyrics when those lyrics have been divested of their accompanying music). But to use a product review as a means of dispensing clunky portions of literary theory and reflections on the nature of a work of art is in my book a bizarre use of one’s time, although I suppose you could argue that it’s a form of critical busking, maybe in the hope that the editor of the Times Educational Supplement or the London Review of Books happens to wander by and sign you up on the spot.
Ah well. It was six years ago that ‘A reader’ posted his or her essay. Web sophistication accelerates exponentially. Besides, ‘how you do it is no business of mine / it just passes time, passes time’, as Gruff Rhys once sang.