Thursday, March 6, 2014

The two latest trolls on Goodreads pissed me off, so here's my response

A good critic is trying to tell you what she has learned about herself from the reading of a particular piece of literature. A bad reviewer is often trying to tell you how smart he is by declaring whether or not he liked a particular book. If he liked the book, then this is the kind of book a superior person likes, and vice versa. He might try to explain why he didn’t like it, but the review is really just a tautology. “I didn’t like this book because it is bad,” is equivalent to “This book is bad because I didn’t like it.”
Kevin Guilfoyle, The Tournament of Books 2014

So this is something I found at the Tournament of Books site, and with which I agree completely. I've had a lot of private and public snark on several fora about the fact that I write reader-response reviews. "Who cares" is the general tenor of these snorts of derision, with an undercurrent of "how dare you" for additional smugness.

Here's the thing: I don't much care if you liked a book or not. That's nice, either way, ohhh mmmm ah-hah. So? I like BLTs. So you go out and get yourself a BLT because Richard said he liked them. It's a soggy mess, with undercooked bacon and watery tomatoes and limp, wilted iceberg lettuce on untoasted white bread. "Ick ptui," you say, "that Richard steered me wrong! I'll never trust his recommendations again."

And you'd be right.

I **love** crispy bacon. When you put crispy, just-on-the-edge-of-burned bacon on a toasted piece of seeded rye bread, and add fresh, home-grown Green Zebra tomatoes that have been slightly salted to accent their sweetness...well, the only thing that makes it better is an inner leaf of butter lettuce, one of the yellowy ones with a crunchy-thick rib and that snap-in-the-tooth texture. Being a fat-o-holic, I need mayo on my bread, but honestly who would be a stickler and whine about the lack with these ingredients?

And please, oh please, give me a good bock beer, a Dos XX or a Shiner, cold cold cold, so I can sluice my mouth clean with carbonated richness! Could any sandwich anywhere ever say "summer" more loudly than this?

Now you hate the sound of that because you're some sort of stupid veggie nutball, or you're a religious nut who won't eat pigmeat, or maybe beer makes you cringe. Maybe you don't like tomatoes. But what you are not is in any doubt about what I'm saying I like. Based on your take on the elements presented, you have a clear picture of whether I'm speakin' your language or I might as well be speaking in tongues.

That's what I'm trying to get across, both positively and negatively, in my reviews. If you disagree with me, fine. But I don't care. It's not important to me that you "validate" me with praise each and every time I utter a pronunciamento, as more than one of the arrogant assholes who've publicly or privately told me to belt up have said.

If you don't like what I've written, go on about your day. I don't care to know why, or that, you are Offended or Bored or Contemptuous. Go feel your feelings the way you feel your bits: Privately.


  1. I'm not a fan of BLTs or beer, either, for that matter, but I always love hearing people describe their great pleasures. In fact, the only thing I want to know about a book is how a reader reacted/interacted with it. The whole social being impulse of monkey-grooming is checking in with our people, and finding out how they're doing, rather than what they're doing, which is why those annual newsletters are always so boring.

    That is to say, "Yes, exactly. This is why I read your reviews!"


Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.