If, however, I did fear, deep inside, that my inability to appreciate any celebrated book betrayed my complete intellectual and aesthetic inadequacy, I would probably be pretty angry. (1)
So this is a quote from a Salon article that I really intended to dissect (and who knows, perhaps somewhere I will).
Basically, the author comes to the conclusion that the only reason people write passionately negative reviews of books only do so because they couldn’t understand the words or just don’t trust their literary judgement. In fact, the subtitle reads “What readers who take offense at unfamiliar words and challenging books are telling us about our culture.” In other words, we are a culture of mainstream, listen-to-the-lowest-common-denominator and can we please stop listening to stupid people who don’t agree with us now?
First, I agree that the lowest common denominator is not likely to have the best quality work—because that’s really what it’s for, is marketing.
Second, as a passionate reader who quite frequently loathes books even when the literary world loves them, I disagree most vehemently.
Corollary: I absolutely do not distrust my literary tastes, and quite frequently literary people write stupid books. Terribly books.
But I am a passionate reader, and because I am, I like to share my opinions. Frequently I do so on the internet. Even more frequently, as anyone I know will tell you, I’ll share it in person. When a book offends me, from style, character or theme, I will tell people. Even in writing, where the poor dear author might see it and get his or her feelings hurt. Quite honestly, I don’t care.
Well, I would, should some author ever actually read one of my reviews and find them hurtful, I would empathize with that pain. I wouldn’t remove the review. I wouldn’t edit the review. It doesn’t feel like truth to me to do so. I do my best to make sure I am comfortable with absolutely everything I put online, ever. Some of it is horribly embarrassing and makes me blush to think of it. It’s still there (no links, though). It’s nothing to ruin my life. It’s truthful to who I was and what I wanted to say at the time.
Now that I’ve completed NaNoWriMo some three times, I can tell you, all of those are awful. Shame on me for actually letting my friends read the first one, but that’s mostly because a rough draft written in such short time with no experience whatsoever might just be actively harmful to the world.(2)
So I would feel badly for an author who was too invested in their book to understand that people have different opinions and this is a fact and not even a right, but that’s just because I am also a human being with a functional empathy brain lobe. Once upon a time, criticism was understood to be a thing that happened. You could rail against it or fight back or ignore it, but you realized it would happen. Now, for all the hand-wringing over the youngest generations being too fragile to face the world after decades of gold stars and self-esteem babble, it seems like the notion has been swallowed wholeheartedly by the the literary community. And the genre community.
You know what happens when other professionals throw fits over mean reviews online? People laugh at them on the internet too. And television. And around the water cooler.
Dear author, you sold your book. You made money. You are now a professional. Please try to grow a backbone.
(2) My friends are also strong-minded people, and do not appear to be damaged.