Six LDS Writers and A Frog

Friday, August 08, 2008

They Hate Me; They Really Hate Me

by Kerry Blair

One of my best friends collects baseball cards. Another collects Lladro. I collect quotations. I've discovered over the years that not only are words cheaper, they're easier to keep clean, a breeze to store, and often more useful. If there's a downside it's that they are rather hard to display. So, today, without a guest blog to my name, nor time to write a blog of my own, I will throw open my vault and show to you a miniscule portion of my collection. In this case (metaphorically speaking) I keep bad reviews.

(Okay, okay! I have to tell you the truth. The case was already open because I got a bad review of my own this morning -- a real stinker -- and I'm too depressed and insecure to write anything -- even a blog. So there! Whew. I feel a little better now.)

Here are a few "observations" about other writers and their works that make my scathing review seem rather . . . well . . . if not nice, at least mild in comparison.

I am at a loss to understand why people hold Miss Austen's novels at so high a rate, which seem to me vulgar in tone, sterile in artistic invention, imprisoned in the wretched conventions of English society, without genius, wit, or knowledge of the world...the one problem in the mind of the marriageableness...suicide is more respectable. (by Ralph Waldo Emerson, 1861)

The best answer to his twaddle is cui bono? -- to whom is it a benefit? If not to Mr. Emerson individually, then surely to no man. (by Edgar Allan Poe, 1842)

A verbal poet merely; empty of thought, empty of sympathy, empty of love for any real thing...he was not human and manly. (by John Burroughs, 1893)

No, kidding. That could go on all day and into the night. (But I do have one.)

Here all the faults of Jane Eyre (by her sister Charlotte) are magnified a thousand fold, and the only consolation which we have in reflecting upon it is that it will never be generally read. (James Lorimer, newspaper reviewer, 1847)

We fancy that any real child might be more puzzled than enchanted by this stiff, overwrought story. (Children's Books, 1865)

Last winter I forced myself through his Tale of Two Cities. It was a sheer dead pull from start to finish. It all seemed so insincere, such a transparent make-believe, a dreadful piece of writing. (Century Magazine, 1859)

An eccentric, dreamy, half-educated recluse in an out-of-the-way New England village -- or anywhere else -- cannot with impunity set at defiance the laws of gravitation and grammar...oblivion lingers in her immediate neighborhood. (Atlantic Monthly, 1892)

He will say nothing simply. His paragraphs are so long and so involved that it is hard to remember who is talking or the subject which began the paragraph...We do not doubt the existence of decadence, but we do doubt that it is the most important or the most interesting feature in American life, or even Mississippi... (Boston Evening Transcript, 1936)

HAMLET: would imagine this piece to be the work of a drunken savage. (Voltaire, 1768)
OTHELLO: Pure melodrama. There is not a touch of characterization that goes below the skin. (George Bernard Shaw, 1897)
A MIDSUMMER NIGHT'S DREAM: The most insipid, ridiculous play that I ever saw in my life. (Samuel Pepys, 1662)

One of my favorite quotes in this file is a little advice from novelist, playwright, humorist JEANNE KERR who mused on how to best deal with a bad review:

Confronted by an absolutely infuriating review it is sometimes helpful for the victim to do a little personal research on the critic. Is there any truth to the rumor that he had no formal education beyond the age of eleven? In any event, is he able to construct a simple English sentence? Do his participles dangle? When moved to lyricism does he write, "I had a fun time"? Was he ever arrested for burglary? I don't know that you will prove anything this way, but it is perfectly harmless and quite soothing.

You know, it really is. There was a dangling participle in my blogging "friend's" review -- not to mention two misused words and four spelling errors. (Oh, wait. I just mentioned that not-to-mention thing, didn't I? My bad.) I'm looking into the woman's education and criminal record later this afternoon and will get back to you.

In the meantime, what's the worst review you've ever received? Mine was: "You are the worst mother in the whole, wide world!" given by an irate four-year-old. It was a big world even then, with billions of mothers in it, so I am forced to believe that absolutely nothing anybody else will ever say or write about me can top that.

Obviously, I have taken Anna's blog to heart. There is a bright side to everything.


At 8/08/2008 4:35 PM, Blogger Melanie J said...

Tee-hee-hee! You're hilarious.

I'm totally revisiting this if I ever get published and reviewed.

At 8/08/2008 4:54 PM, Blogger J Scott Savage said...

Great "observations." Whenever I get a reall bad review, I go look up a book I really love on Amazon, and see how terrible some of their reviews are. Makes me feel like I'm at least part of a good club.

How about this from a review of Farworld.

"Personally, the first couple of chapters were similar to many different books, then when Marcus got to Farworld it was starting to get interesting and it slowed down and got a little bit boring. About that time I started reading something else and took a break from the book. Then I recalled that I was suppose to write a review on it soon so I finished it up. I actually thought when you got through some parts it got better then it slowed down again. To me it was kinda all over the place and confusing to me. "

At 8/08/2008 5:19 PM, Blogger Jon Spell said...

Tell us who gave you the bad review, Kerry, and we will go and punish him until he repents of his wickedness!

Because clearly, it was unwarranted.

At 8/08/2008 5:28 PM, Blogger Kerry Blair said...

Okay, Scott, you beat me. Heck, you beat Emerson. I DO love that this person writes like (s)he thinks: "Kinda all over the place and confusing" for sure. :) The "supposed to write a review" part makes me think it is someone you asked for comments. Tell me, is it better or worse to get a backhand from someone you solicited than it is from a "volunteer" like my reviewer? Yeah, I can't decide, either.

For everyone who's interested, my take on Farworld is a little different from the one Jeff just posted. I'm sending out a Farworld newsletter (Is it your first fanzine, Scott? Is it?!) next Tuesday to everybody on my mailing list. If you want an e-copy, let me know. It has my review -- and two others -- plus pictures and a short peak at a scene I think is one of the most compelling. It may or may not have an interview. (The author has been ignoring my e-mails since he became famous.) Also a contest. I've put about 20 hours into this thus far(world) -- you don't want to miss it!

At 8/08/2008 5:29 PM, Blogger Jennie said...

Actually I thought some of those reviews were quite accurate,and I'll admit that I've been tempted a few times to point out that the emperor isn't wearing any clothes. Some of the big names really aren't the best writers. But I've never been tempted to say anything negative about any of your books. I have a hard time reviewing your books because I'm such a big fan.

At 8/08/2008 5:35 PM, Blogger Kerry Blair said...

Jon: Everyone is entitled to their own opinion. That is what makes America so great Besides, free will (and the blogosphere in which to exercise it) is a gift from God.

There. Did that sound very pious and patriotic and...big of me? Well, sheesh, Jon! It's Friday afternoon and I have a toothache -- what can you expect? At any rate, I wouldn't want you to sick those gorgeous kitties of yours on anybody just because she was being a little catty.

I'm stepping away from the computer now. I really am.

Still my hero, Jon.

At 8/08/2008 5:42 PM, Blogger Kerry Blair said...

Peek. Sic.

I hate it when I criticize somebody else's spelling and/or word use then turn right around and make errors myself. (I do it a lot.)

Excuse me please while I go remove this beam from my eye. It will probably take awhile, so talk among yourselves.

PS to Jennie: I have to admit I included two of those reviews just for you, my friend. :) I am going to bronze your comment. It WILL make it harder to read, but I want to keep it forever. Maybe longer.

At 8/08/2008 6:50 PM, Blogger Kimberly said...

The problem with reviewing a book as opposed to reading it, is that one sometimes looks for what is wrong instead of taking the time to simply enjoy.

I never review. I read. And then I react.

I haven't read any of your work yet other than your posts here, but I enjoyed your posts enough to scour the internet trying to see if I could order a book by you. Sometimes I hate living so far from civilization.

Count me in on the farworld fanzine - pretty please?

At 8/08/2008 10:09 PM, Blogger Anna Maria Junus said...

When I wrote my humor column I had one guy write to the newspaper and say that I should find another job.

But then someone else defended me.

Hey, you're brave enough to put yourself out there. A bad review means that someone cared enough about your writing to comment on it. Worse is if no one cares.

At 8/09/2008 9:37 PM, Blogger Sariah S. Wilson said...

One of my favorite author bashing comments has to be from Mark Twain:

"I haven't any right to criticise books, and I don't do it except when I hate them. I often want to criticise Jane Austen, but her books madden me so that I can't conceal my frenzy from the reader; and therefore I have to stop every time I begin. Everytime I read 'Pride and Prejudice' I want to dig her up and beat her over the skull with her own shin-bone."

And I love both Mark Twain and Jane Austen - but I still find it hilarious. If you're going to slam someone, I think it's cool when it's done with so much style. ;)

At 8/10/2008 11:51 PM, Blogger Pat said...

Just goes to show you - even the greats had to put up with criticism.
Unfortunately, it seems that those comments live longer (and stronger) in our minds than positive comments do, and it's because they hurt - especially when coming from friends.

I'm with Jennie about your work - and would gladly "clobber" any critics for you if you like...


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