Comment on Comments – A review of reviews
In case you haven’t been aware, there has been a few arguments riding the blogosphere this past week. The first was about the value of e-book or self-publishing being regarded as lesser than traditional print publishing. The second has been about the self-publishers who have commented on negative reviews of their books. Jenny at the Inner Bean has blogged and started some forum discussions on this topic.
Now I love the fact that several authors have posted here following one of my reviews. Essentially my reviews are promotions of books I have enjoyed reading, so them commenting doesn’t feel out of place. But reviews on Amazon and some review sites are not exactly the places to weigh in with a response.
Let us take an example of a review on Amazon:
Julia Argandona, of Costa Mesa, CA Review (‘17 of 59’ customers found this ‘helpful’):
I haven’t read this book yet but I can’t wait to read it so I am reviewing it early. The other people on Amazon who say don’t read it are brainwashed stooges of the Catholic religion, which has been sexually abusing children for 100’s of years. Who needs it? I already LOVE this book
I think the most important thing to note about this review is not that she hadn’t read the book, nor that she is clearly a fan of the author or genre regardless of the content of this particular book, no the important thing to note is that 17 of 59 other customers actually found this review helpful.
I’ve never driven a car, I’ve never held a license to drive a car, but I’m ever so keen to teaching my kids to drive. Can’t Wait!
Obviously everyone is entitled to an opinion. The internet has become a playground for the dispersal of opinions and porn. So we have to admit to ourselves that some people on the internet will not only be naked, but they will also have the intellectual might of a cheese cracker. I think it is safe to ignore these people, unless they look good naked.
But what about the normal or intelligent people and their opinions? Clearly all rational opinions will be in agreement. As a result you will never see a negative review for a book (or anything else) coming from someone worth listening to. Even if the book sucks.
I recently discovered that ~50% of the general public doesn’t believe in man made climate change and are willing to argue with the 97% of scientists who can prove it is happening. So opinions don’t have to be related to facts or evidence. There is a point here, but I’m not sure how it relates to internet nudity.
So even in the best of circumstances, when you are 100% right and the opinion holder is 100% wrong, telling people that is the case is just a waste of time. Remember, the best book ever written – Good Omens by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman – currently has 19 one star reviews on Amazon. This means that 3% of reviewers, despite being wrong, didn’t enjoy this masterpiece, proving that you can’t please everyone, so don’t bother arguing with them.
Of course reviewing the reviewers is all Anne Rice’s fault. She started it.
From the Author to the Some of the Negative Voices Here, September 6, 2004
Seldom do I really answer those who criticize my work. In fact, the entire development of my career has been fueled by my ability to ignore denigrating and trivializing criticism as I realize my dreams and my goals. However there is something compelling about Amazon’s willingness to publish just about anything, and the sheer outrageous stupidity of many things you’ve said here that actually touches my proletarian and Democratic soul. Also I use and enjoy Amazon and I do read the reviews of other people’s books in many fields. In sum, I believe in what happens here. And so, I speak. First off, let me say that this is addressed only to some of you, who have posted outrageously negative comments here, and not to all. You are interrogating this text from the wrong perspective. Indeed, you aren’t even reading it. You are projecting your own limitations on it. And you are giving a whole new meaning to the words “wide readership.” And you have strained my Dickensean principles to the max. I’m justifiably proud of being read by intellectual giants and waitresses in trailer parks,in fact, I love it, but who in the world are you? Now to the book. Allow me to point out: nowhere in this text are you told that this is the last of the chronicles, nowhere are you promised curtain calls or a finale, nowhere are you told there will be a wrap-up of all the earlier material. The text tells you exactly what to expect. And it warns you specifically that if you did not enjoy Memnoch the Devil, you may not enjoy this book. This book is by and about a hero whom many of you have already rejected. And he tells you that you are likely to reject him again. And this book is most certainly written — every word of it — by me. If and when I can’t write a book on my own, you’ll know about it. And no, I have no intention of allowing any editor ever to distort, cut, or otherwise mutilate sentences that I have edited and re-edited, and organized and polished myself. I fought a great battle to achieve a status where I did not have to put up with editors making demands on me, and I will never relinquish that status. For me, novel writing is a virtuoso performance. It is not a collaborative art. Back to the novel itself: the character who tells the tale is my Lestat. I was with him more closely than I have ever been in this novel; his voice was as powerful for me as I’ve ever heard it. I experienced break through after break through as I walked with him, moved with him, saw through his eyes. What I ask of Lestat, Lestat unfailingly gives. For me, three hunting scenes, two which take place in hotels — the lone woman waiting for the hit man, the slaughter at the pimp’s party — and the late night foray into the slums –stand with any similar scenes in all of the chronicles. They can be read aloud without a single hitch. Every word is in perfect place. The short chapter in which Lestat describes his love for Rowan Mayfair was for me a totally realized poem. There are other such scenes in this book. You don’t get all this? Fine. But I experienced an intimacy with the character in those scenes that shattered all prior restraints, and when one is writing one does have to continuously and courageously fight a destructive tendency to inhibition and restraint. Getting really close to the subject matter is the achievement of only great art. Now, if it doesn’t appeal to you, fine. You don’t enjoy it? Read somebody else. But your stupid arrogant assumptions about me and what I am doing are slander. And you have used this site as if it were a public urinal to publish falsehood and lies. I’ll never challenge your democratic freedom to do so, and yes, I’m answering you, but for what it’s worth, be assured of the utter contempt I feel for you, especially those of you who post anonymously (and perhaps repeatedly?) and how glad I am that this book is the last one in a series that has invited your hateful and ugly responses. Now, to return to the narrative in question: Lestat’s wanting to be a saint is a vision larded through and through with his characteristic vanity. It connects perfectly with his earlier ambitions to be an actor in Paris, a rock star in the modern age. If you can’t see that, you aren’t reading my work. In his conversation with the Pope he makes observations on the times which are in continuity with his observations on the late twentieth century in The Vampire Lestat, and in continuity with Marius’ observations in that book and later in Queen of the Damned. The state of the world has always been an important theme in the chronicles. Lestat’s comments matter. Every word he speaks is part of the achievement of this book. That Lestat renounced this saintly ambition within a matter of pages is plain enough for you to see. That he reverts to his old self is obvious, and that he intends to complete the tale of Blackwood Farm is also quite clear. There are many other themes and patterns in this work that I might mention — the interplay between St.Juan Diago and Lestat, the invisible creature who doesn’t “exist” in the eyes of the world is a case in point. There is also the theme of the snare of Blackwood Farm, the place where a human existence becomes so beguiling that Lestat relinquishes his power as if to a spell. The entire relationship between Lestat and Uncle Julien is carefully worked out. But I leave it to readers to discover how this complex and intricate novel establishes itself within a unique, if not unrivalled series of book. There are things to be said. And there is pleasure to be had. And readers will say wonderful things about Blood Canticle and they already are. There are readers out there and plenty of them who cherish the individuality of each of the chronicles which you so flippantly condemn. They can and do talk circles around you. And I am warmed by their response. Their letters, the papers they write in school, our face to face exchanges on the road — these things sustain me when I read the utter trash that you post. But I feel I have said enough. If this reaches one reader who is curious about my work and shocked by the ugly reviews here, I’ve served my goals. And Yo, you dude, the slang police! Lestat talks like I do. He always has and he always will. You really wouldn’t much like being around either one of us. And you don’t have to be. If any of you want to say anything about all this by all means Email me at Anneobrienrice@mac.com. And if you want your money back for the book, send it to 1239 First Street, New Orleans, La, 70130. I’m not a coward about my real name or where I live. And yes, the Chronicles are no more! Thank God! – Anne Rice
She also doesn’t abide by fan fiction, because it’s her work DAMMIT!