Sunday, November 13, 2011

book reviews (again)

I've received two e-mails asking me what the name of the author was from yesterday's post, so I came up with An Idea.  I'll explain and you can tell me if I'm dead wrong.

I didn't know book reviews were a touchy subject when I started blogging (I've talked about this before).  It never occurred to me that the actual authors might read my reviews.  Never even crossed my mind.  Authors are godlike creatures living in an alternate plane where they wrestle with their muse and produce books that arrive in bookstores and libraries ready to be devoured, right?  Why in the world would someone like that want to read some ya-hoo's half-baked opinions?  why would they care?  I have no credentials except that I sit here and type.

But then I discovered that many of my favorite authors do, in fact, have quite a strong presence on the web, and are often heavily involved with their fans.  Which is great, terrific, and says wonderful things about them as people, but it makes me want to run from the room.  If I were ever to meet one of my favorites in person, I would be completely and utterly tongue-tied.  Hero worship. And it gets even worse when I make some lame brain comment on one of their blogs and they actually respond

And then several of the (non-author) blogs I follow stated that they never review books, because they don't want to hurt anyone's feelings, or (perhaps more importantly) injure their own chances of getting a book published by offending someone who has influence in the publishing industry.  That second part is not a problem for me, since my fiction is so bad that I'm in no danger of getting it published, regardless of friends or enemies in the business.  But the first part has caused me considerable thought.  These godlike authors can get their feelings hurt?  new thought for me, although obviously of course they can.

At that point, though, I said I was going to keep doing book reviews since that's one of the main reasons I started blogging: to be able to write about the books I read.   But I seem to be incapable of writing a 100% positive book review-- I've never read a perfect book, and why should I say a book is perfect when it's not?  (See, this is that asperger's-ish thing.  People's feelings are less important to me than other things, like being honest.  This is not something to be proud of.  Especially not when "being honest" means "stating my silly hyper-sensitive opinions about things that I'm really not qualified to comment on." But if you point out to me that I might have hurt someone's feelings, I am horrified.)  And then it became apparent that an author might really have found one of my reviews (not a negative one, thank goodness).  And then I read an interview with a pulitzer-prize winning author in which he said something to the effect of:  a review can be 99% good, but the 1% negative is what you remember, not just the next day but years later.

So I gave up.  You might have noticed that I haven't posted a book review in a long time.  I have no desire whatsoever to be negative to someone who deserves only kudos for going through the insanity that is writing a book, and coming out with something that is good enough to be accepted for publication, and has been through the hands of agents, editors, and beta readers, all of whom are more competent, experienced readers than me. (than I? I just googled to check on that and got conflicting answers.  It looks like technically it should be "than I.")

But here's the thing:  I still have things to say about the books I read.  And sometimes I really want to say them.  So yesterday I wrote the "not a book review" post, thinking I would just say what I wanted to say and leave the identifying information out of it.  And for the record, I don't worry about naming Nora Roberts.  If a woman who has sold millions of books is worried about my penny-ass little opinion (which she can't possibly be), she deserves what she gets. 

But this morning it occurred to me, what if I write the review, and then put the author and title in the comments?  Because I don't think that web crawlers search the comments (web crawlers are the "things" that go through all the sites out there on the web and catalog "things" to appear in google searches--or yahoo or bing or whatever)("things" being the technical term).  so what do you think?

Hmmm, this post was originally going to cover some other stuff, too, but it is long enough and I need to get back to reading James Joyce's biography.  I'm not usually a biography fan, but I have to admit that this one is pretty interesting, especially if you've read some of his stuff.  Turns out almost everything he wrote has its roots in real things from his life.  ("things" again).

And let me know if you know anything about web crawlers and comments.


  1. this is a dumb idea, isn't it? :-) never mind. But I'm not deleting it because at least it's another post for NaBloPoMo, right? Let me know if you have a good solution to this problem. Originally I kept another blog--a double super secret blog-- for this purpose, and I suppose I could go back to that.

  2. I have no clue if web crawlers look at comments. Interesting thought. I have been known to do a book review, not recently but I have. I am a small time blogger and yet I have received thank you emails from authors for a good review.

    It totally freaked me out.

  3. well, I think I am a smaller time blogger than you. Although for the past week or two, my numbers have been way up (for me) after a couple of weeks of being way down. But if you got an e-mail from an author re: one of your posts, I guess that confirms my worry. I don't write nice reviews very often, because I'm so hyper-picky about things. It's just the way I am as a reader. Maybe I should practice lightening up-- maybe that's the real solution.

  4. I have mixed feelings on this one. I mostly think, as you do, that honesty is a great idea... but I REALLY don't want to hurt anyone's feelings. On the other hand, it's highly unlikely that an authour will find me as well (I know nothing about the web crawlers, but I don't think they catch every mention, nor do I think ANYone has enough time to read all that are caught) or that someone who has, again, as you said, been through that endlessly long and painful process of publishing, has such a thin skin that my tiny, know-nothing opionion is going to bother them.

    Not a dumb idea. An inspired solution!

    No, "lightening up" is really NOT the answer here. Some of us just live within the spectrum, and ARE super picky, and that's fine, it's how we're built and it's our opinion. We are, by FAR. not nearly as bad as those heinous trolls we've all seen around.
    (THANK YOU for not deleting!)

  5. Book reviews are a significant reason why I come by this blog - and I often read books that you've critiqued, even if they aren't "perfect." Please give us authors and titles somewhere. Please.