Thursday, June 26, 2014
Today, I happened upon a posting in the comments section of an Amazon review I’d recently given on Dana King’s book GRIND JOINT. It’s by a guy who for some reason doesn’t use his name but goes by “Mr. Wizard”. Normally, I ignore the trolls who seem to populate the Intergnat, but felt I had to say something about this as it challenges my integrity. And, my integrity is important to me, which is one reason I don’t hide behind some chickenshit alias…
Here’s what the Wiz (who lives in Monterrey, California, which explains a lot…) said:
This perhaps would be a more persuasive review except that the reviewer has posted 44 similar superlatives, none rated less than 5 stars, since 2009. Apparently there's not a book he's read for which he has not had the same exuberant praise.
First, to provide some context, I read an average of three and a half novels per week. Each and every week. That means that since 2009 I’ve read approximately 800 novels. In my house are literally thousands of novels and my Kindle is packed full. I buy novels, but I also receive novels from friends and publishers to read, sometimes to review or blurb. Forty-four reviews for approximately 800 novels read seems about right to me and that’s because of my personal review philosophy.
Which is, I won’t write a review unless I think it truly is worth five stars.
Whether that’s a good philosophy or not is open for debate. It’s just my personal philosophy.
See, I’m a writer, which means I kind of know what goes into writing a novel and then finding an agent and then finding a publisher and then finding readers. It’s hard, boobie. There’s just an awful lot of blood, sweat and tears (and luck!) involved. It’s actually a wonder there are as many books published (legitimately—I’m not talking about self-publishing) as there are.
With my first novel, I suffered 85 rejections. That’s in the pre-Intergnat days when one had to send the mss via snail mail and provide postage not only for sending the work but for the return postage. At a time—for me, anyway—in which we didn’t know where the rent or food money was going to come from, most weeks, and could ill-afford the money spent on postage. And wait weeks and months for a reply. And, when it did find a publisher, it was only because of the advice literary agent Mary Evans gave me and the rare good fortune it had in landing on the desk of a person who wasn’t going to even read it before sticking in the rejection slip, but whose secretary had spilled her coffee and was preparing a new cup and she decided to read a page or two while waiting on her java. Those are the kinds of things that are behind many books that find their way into print. Not to mention I’d spent a year and a half writing and rewriting it…
So, yeah, when I pick up a book, I know I don’t know the history of that book, but I do know that it most likely wasn’t whipped out in a day and a half and there was probably more than a bit of sacrifice behind it.
Sorry, but I’m not going to be the guy who takes a few hours to read it and then slap a two- or three-star rating on it. I just won’t publish a review that I don’t think is deserving of a five-star rating. This guy—Mr. Wizard—seems to be like more than one person among us—he judges others’ lives by his own. I venture a guess that he reads about 44 books in five years and reviews every single one. Which is what he seems to think that I’ve done. Sorry, panther-breath—that’s not even a third of a year’s reading for moi.
In fact, there are a bunch of writers who I know and whose books I’ve read that I haven’t reviewed publicly. Sometimes, that’s because I don’t feel I could honestly give them a five-star review. Not always—often I do think it deserves such a rating, but if I reviewed every single book I read I wouldn’t have much time for reading other books and that’s how I’d rather spend my time. In fact, when I find an author I like, I usually end up reading every single book he or she has published, but I usually only review one book. It’s just a time thing.
There are several writers who’ve asked me to review their books and I read them and told them (in private) that I wouldn’t put my name on it—that it simply wasn’t that good. That’s not something I enjoy doing and I’m pretty sure they didn’t enjoy hearing. But, it’s that integrity thing. And, more than one of them wrote another book and asked me to review it and that book was great and I gave them a review. A five-star review. They’d earned it.
Reviews are a funny animal. My idea of the perfect and best-written book of all time is THE STRANGER by Albert Camus. Recently, I went to Amazon and read a few of the reviews for it. One (well, more than one!) reviewer gave it three stars. Three stars! I looked up this reviewer’s history and saw she’d reviewed books like FIFTY SHADES OF CRAP and James Patterson novels and gave them five stars. That kind of illustrates the literary acumen of some reviewers perfectly. I don’t have any problem with her giving five stars to FIFTY SHADES, but I do kind of have an issue with giving a book of true genius three stars. But then, as my old pappy used to say: “Consider the source.”
Which might have been the trigger for Mr. Wiz’s comments. I kind of dissed those kinds of books in my review of Dana’s book. Perhaps he feels those are examples of good literature… Who knows? The only thing I know is that as a rule, someone who doesn’t have the trouser beans to use his real name behind his comments is what we used to call, in the days before political correctness—a chickenshit. (My apologies to chickens everywhere…)
Am I pissed? Well… yeah. Mostly, I’d just like to meet Mr. Wiz and whiz on him…
Rant over… but one last thing. If I review a book on this blog or anywhere and give it five stars, I’ve not only read a pile of books I didn’t review, but that it absolutely was a five-star read for me.
You can count on it.
P.S. I'm aware that the common wisdom is to simply ignore these kinds of assholes but sometimes they're just so much of a punk that it's hard to. And, I'm not commenting on a bad review he gave me, but to his challenging my integrity, so hope that counts for something.