In the New York Times James Parker and Anna Holmes debate the question of whether book reviewing should be seen as an art or a public service. Except “debate” isn’t quite the right word. Both Parker and Holmes come down firmly on the side of public service. Which is remarkable, at least in one reviewer’s opinion. For Parker
if the reviewer tries to be artistic, if he once abandons the secondary zone of criticism for the primary zone of creation, he’s sunk. The point of the review, after all, is not him: It’s the book. The book that somebody else wrote. So good reviewing demands a certain transparency of language, and an absence of prancing and posturing . . .
The most Parker will allow is “a minor obligation to entertain the reader, or at least get him painlessly to the end of the column.”
Holmes is of much the same opinion, saying that a reviewer should inform rather than perform, and that the essential thing is for the reviewer “to get out of the way.”