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Inside the Critics' CircleBook Reviewing in Uncertain Times$
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Phillipa K. Chong

Print publication date: 2020

Print ISBN-13: 9780691167466

Published to Princeton Scholarship Online: September 2020

DOI: 10.23943/princeton/9780691167466.001.0001

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Reviewing as Risky Business

Reviewing as Risky Business

(p.59) Chapter 4 Reviewing as Risky Business
Inside the Critics' Circle

Phillipa K. Chong

Princeton University Press

This chapter shows how critics confront the reality that what they put in their reviews has consequences not only for the book under review but also for the critics themselves. This is in part attributable to the switch-role reward structure, as many reviewers are themselves working writers reviewing other working writer. Throughout, the chapter demonstrates that despite a temptation to write negative reviews of parties they may very well view as competition, critics are hesitant to be overtly negative in their reviews and choose instead to “play nice,” in part driven by a blend of both sympathy for and fear of reprisal from others in the literary field. The key here is that critics imagine various implications for what they write—especially when it comes to negative reviews—and the potential (uncertainty) for retribution or causing pain informs how they behave in the present. The reason they have for imagining the future in the particular ways that they do is anchored in the switch-role reward structure of the reviewing apparatus.

Keywords:   switch-role reward structure, negative reviews, literary field, reviewing apparatus, book reviewing, risks

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