Thursday, October 4, 2007

Cold Hard Bitch

I was having a discussion recently with a fellow blogger who posed this question:

Can you review a book you didn't like if you "know" the author?

This is a question I think a lot of reader bloggers struggle with, because first and foremost, we're fans. We love the genre. We love to support authors. We love to talk books. And some people just find it hard to slam a book they hated after they've met the author who is just the sweetest person on the planet, dontcha know.

Me? I don't have this problem. To which this fellow blogger mused (jokingly) that I was hard-hearted.

I'm not, I just have my own code of ethics. Let me try to explain.

I've always been able to separate The Book from The Author. In fact, I prefer it this way. I hate when lines are blurred - which is why I tend to get annoyed with freaky rabid fangirl behavior. I like my reality in one box, and my entertainment (fiction) in another box. They can be in the same storage unit, but that's about it. For me the book is a commodity. It's a product that one buys and consumes - sorta like a loaf of bread. Certainly books can enrich my life, but like a loaf of bread, I don't always like every brand that's on the market.

Another thing (and this is worth repeating): The Book Is Not The Author. I even think that some authors tend to forget this. Calling the book "her baby." Railing against ignorant reviewers. Posting on reader blogs that the reader was just "too stupid" to understand how beautiful the author's "baby" was.


I know writing a book is hard work. If it wasn't hard work, everybody would do it. But let's keep it in perspective shall we? Raising a child is one thing, writing a book another entirely. I'm sorry, they ain't on the same level and you won't be able to convince me otherwise (code for: don't even try).

Does that mean I am without any tact whatsoever?

Hell no. I do have my rules.

For instance, I'm all for posting on my blog about how much I hated a book - but I'm talking about the book. I'll say the heroine was an idiot, the hero was a Neanderthal, there were plot holes you could drive a truck through, and was the cutesy toddler with a lisp really necessary? Notice there's not one single mention of the author here?

Also, while I'm all for spewing forth my loathing on my forum, I would never, ever, ever e-mail an author personally and say, "Cripes, you're a hack. This book sucked, you can't write worth a damn and oh, by the way, your feet stink." This is just rude behavior in my opinion. My forum is one thing. The author has to do the work to find me. Showing up at their house? Another entirely. This includes author blogs, author message boards or any other forum run by said author. These sort of promotional tools tend to be very fan oriented anyway, and personally I don't go out of my way looking for flame wars. That's me though.

Likewise, if I've read an author's book(s) and hated it, then meet said author I never say, "Hello, I'm a reviewer and I thought your last book sucked donkey balls." In fact, I tend to never mention I'm a reviewer, period. I just don't. A lot of authors aren't wild about "us", and again (being a wuss), I like to avoid uncomfortable moments when humanly possible. That, and I get a lot more love by saying, "Hello, I'm a librarian." Seriously, everybody loves librarians.

Do I feel guilty giving a crappy review to an author I've met before? Certainly. I love to go to booksignings, so it's happened more than once to me. I read a book, hated the book, meet the author and she's so bloody nice! I feel like a shit-heel for a while, but I get over it. Again, The Book Is Not The Author.

But I'm hard-hearted like that.


Holly said...

I feel pretty much the same way as you about it. The book and the author are separate, but that doesn't mean that I don't feel all kinds of guilty (for a minute) afterwards.

But then I move on.

Maybe I'm the hard-hearted one. :)

Daphne said...

That's a good post. Honestly, I don't know any authors in "real life" but I'm pretty sure if I did, I would be more biased. Like I would still say a book of theirs is bad if I thought it was, but I would probably be more delicate with my word choices. That pretty much means me not saying things I normally would like "WTF, are you kidding me?" Again, I've never been in the situation, but I'm just guessing that's how I'd be.

moonrat said...

we had this problem on thebookbook last week--one of our readers posted an honest review that she didn't like a book she read. she said NOTHING about the author. however, several people from the author's home city tracked the review down via a google search and heaped our reviewer with abuse--very personal abuse.

people can be terrible. a book is not its author, i 100% agree with you. even the best authors have some duds in their past. and readers are consumers--nothing requires us to like a book. very, very sad.

sybil said...

Disliking a book, a low review or a 'bad' review does not a slam make.

And anyone who would get pissed off at how you felt about a book they wrote to the point it would hurt your friendship - wasn't a 'friend' to begin with...

sez I

Nonny said...


Authors need to grow the hell up when it comes to reviews. Yes, it's natural to be hurt at first, but there's way too many who take that ball and run with it.

Seneca said...

Wow! What a great post. It really made me think.

There have been times when I decided not to review a book because I liked the author too much to say anything bad about her work.

After reading your post I'm going to have to rethink my actions on this.

avidbookreader said...

I can keep it straight. Authors are not my personal friends and any author whose worth their salt will already know that once the book is published it is for public consumption at that point. I know writing is hard work, too but see that's why I choose another profession. I know I can't write for shit.


Kate R said...

I can't imagine loathing anyone because they hated my book.

Back when my first baby was a baby, I'd write people off if they made disparaging remarks about that baby, the most perfect being ever, but that had to be hormones on my part.

I wish more people hated my books, or loved them or something. Meh is far worse than Omigawd in any direction.