Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Opinions, Opinions

(this was written last week but I didn't publish it until today-- I am, thank God, finally over the cold that is mentioned.)

Prejudice is a great time saver. You can form opinions without having to get the facts. E. B. White said that, but although I couldn't find the date he said it, it must have been before 1985 when he died.  I think 25 years ago that maybe it was easier to believe that you could get the facts, that you could base your opinions on something solid, real.  That it was possible to be Right about something, and that your opponents were Wrong.  I find it a lot harder to think that way today. I don't think I have any opinions that I'm 100% sure are Correct. 

There was a great brouhaha in a certain section of the blogosphere this past week because an author--and since I'd never heard of her before this week, I'm not going to link to her blog or name her--wrote a blog post in which she objected to a negative review of her book by another blogger, a review which she (the author) had apparently requested by sending them a review copy.  It was written as a warning to other authors to be careful where you send review copies of your book, because you may not like the results.  If she had left it at that, it would have been fine-- in fact, it is undoubtedly good advice.  but she named names and went on and on until she sounded, honestly, like a whiner.  So your book gets a bad review.  Suck it up, honey.

At one point during the day I read it, which I believe was the day after she posted it, she had dozens and dozens of angry bloggers taking her to task for suggesting that they should not be able state their opinions about her book.

I didn't follow all the links, and I didn't read the original review that caused the whole thing, so I can't comment on it much.  but since I so recently posted about blogging book reviews, it has made me think quite a bit about opinions.  About how heated up we get over our own opinions and the opinions of others.  I drove by a house today with a six-foot hand-painted sign out in front that said "Impeach Obama." I knew someone who seriously considered moving to Canada when Bush Jr. was elected.  I know people who believe their children will be permanently warped if one of their teachers is gay.  I know people who think that you are frivolous and uneducated if you use plastic grocery bags.

Sometimes it just makes me want to toss the whole thing and have no opinions at all. (which is an opinion. I know, I know.)  Maybe because I was raised to have such strong opinions about so many things, and I did.  I believed.  But by the time I was 30, I didn't.  And now that I'm nearly 50, I believe differently than I did at 30.  I understand something about the mutability of beliefs and opinions.  It's hard for me to take my opinions very seriously.

I do have them.  I've got this nasty cold, and I indulged myself by letting myself sit on the couch all afternoon and read a novel.  It was a really intriguing novel, and it was going so well, until it had a truly terrible ending.  It ruined my day.  I spent half an hour after I finished it composing a blog review in my head in which I described in detail all the reasons why it was such a terrible ending.  It was satisfying.  It felt almost like revenge, because I felt betrayed by that author.  To write a book that was so good, so emotionally true that she had me in tears at page 300, but then by page 385 to have botched it so badly that I just wanted to throw it away.  I wished I hadn't read it. 

But even as I wrote that post in my head, I knew I wouldn't publish it.  It's just my opinion.  Is it worth it?  If that author has a Google flag turned on that sends her a link when a blogger mentions her name or one of her books, do I really want her to read all the reasons I hated that ending?  Part of me thinks, Well, yeah, I kind of do.  But part of me thinks of that other poor author this week, who unwittingly stepped into a minefield.  People she'd never heard of before wrote long, scathing comments.  Her friends came to defend her.  I'm sure she was horrified.

I had something slightly similar happen to me.  I wrote a negative book review last summer in a different blog, back when I had two blogs.  I started the second blog as a lark, a place where I could anonymously write snarky reviews of books that had disappointed me.  It had never occurred to me that people would actually read it.  I seem to only have a couple dozen readers of this blog, and that one got even less traffic.  But somehow that one review, the one in which I was particularly negative, must have gotten picked up somehow by someone.  I don't know who, because no one ever commented on it.  but months after I quit posting to that blog, that one post was still getting half a dozen hits per week (sometimes more).  I finally just deleted the entire blog, because it bothered me that I didn't know what was going on. (me? control freak?  noooo.)  Maybe someone was using it as an example of how not to review a book.  Or to make someone else feel bad.  Or whatever.  I don't know because no one ever said anything to me.

I wrote this post last week, but never published it because of the complete irony of writing an opinionated post about the dangers of opinions.  But that says it right there-- you can't not have them.  Just promise not to take me too seriously.


  1. Now that I know you are back amongst the living (yay you survived) I am SO going to need those names and titles. E-mail or private tweety is fine, but I am REALLY going to need them! (Especially the book with the bad ending.)
    I love this post. A lot.

  2. This is a great post. And why did I not know you had a blog?

  3. "This blog is about me needing to type things out so that I can figure them out. It's how I deal with things."
    Oh yes!!!!! I resonate completely!!!