?

Log in

No account? Create an account

Previous Entry | Next Entry

On reading and being reviewed

It's accepted wisdom that authors are not to respond to reviews. There's a good reason for this wisdom.

My first interaction with fiction was as a reader; I was an avid, almost devout, bibliophile. Books and stories took me to a totally different place. It was, however, an internal space, a way of reaching into myself and embiggening my sense of the world.

I have an entirely irrational attachment to books and to reading, and almost nothing can make me fall off the deep end of ranting like an adverse reaction to a book. I'm not capable of reading fiction at an intellectual distance, because if I'm held at a distance, I lose interest in the book. (The big advantage to paperbacks over ebooks? If you need to throw one across the room at a wall, you're not risking hundreds of dollars of technology in a moment of unfortunate reaction. Deleting files is somehow not the same.)

As a writer, I realize on an intellectual level that the books are not actually written to piss me off. That's just an unfortunate side-effect. As a writer, I also realize that some of what I write is going to piss off unknown readers, or bore them, which is possibly worse. As a writer, I realize it can be painful when someone dismisses -- or rages at -- months and months of hair-pulling labour and struggle.

But.

I want to be able to express the full range of reading experience. I don't want to be silenced when I can't stand something, and I don't want to silence myself, either. In some ways, arguing about the merits of a particular book or books is an extension of the reading of said book, for me.

And of course I can't do that when the author is involved in the discussion. Well, okay, I can, but it really is like publicly telling someone their baby is ugly and moronic. If I do want to be able to rant about my own experience, I don't want to do it so much that I'm willing to personally attack the author -- and if the author is standing right beside me, there's no way to separate them from their book.

Which is the reason I absent myself entirely from any discussion of any of my writing. I want readers to have the same freedom that I want as a reader.

However…

(You knew this was coming, because it always does).

It's becoming harder and harder in the age of social media to avoid certain things. For instance, GoodReads. I've never opened a GoodReads account because I'm afraid to see what every or anyone is saying about my books; there's no way for me to enter that discussion. I will actively search out my reviews maybe three times a year, but other than that, I try not to read them. If they're good, I worry that my current WIP will only be a disappointment; if they're bad, I feel like there's no point to the current WIP. Yes, I realize this is ridiculous.

I know that some blog reviewers are happy to have me tweet or post links to their review sites when they've reviewed my work because it might lead my readers to their site as a whole--but this is tricky when I'm trying to avoid reading and commenting on said review. A handful of times now, reviewers have emailed me links to their reviews, which clearly means that they wouldn't be upset if I read them, but even then, I'm not sure if they would welcome my response or not.

The thing is, I'm grateful when I find reviews. I'm grateful that people are reading the book and taking the time to write it up (whichever book that happens to be). Even if they didn't like it. And I want them to know that, but at the same point in time, I don't want to be a pressure or a lurking cloud of guilt.

So I'm wondering if the lines have blurred, if things have changed enough because there's just so much more communication, that it's permissible for authors to note the review, or acknowledge it without somehow being a damper.


Oh, and before I forget, I'm going to WFC in Columbus, Ohio this year. Yes, this is a bit last-minute. Is anyone else going?

Comments

mtlawson
Oct. 8th, 2010 04:14 am (UTC)
I have an entirely irrational attachment to books and to reading, and almost nothing can make me fall off the deep end of ranting like an adverse reaction to a book. I'm not capable of reading fiction at an intellectual distance, because if I'm held at a distance, I lose interest in the book.

Yes, this. I'm not one for throwing books at a wall --I shudder when I see how my kids have "loved" their Harry Potter books to death-- but I get emotionally invested in novels. I've even been known to put a novel down for months at a time because I see the train wreck coming for the characters, and I can't bear to watch. For me, if I can't connect with the story, it doesn't work for me.

And of course I can't do that when the author is involved in the discussion. Well, okay, I can, but it really is like publicly telling someone their baby is ugly and moronic. If I do want to be able to rant about my own experience, I don't want to do it so much that I'm willing to personally attack the author -- and if the author is standing right beside me, there's no way to separate them from their book.

For this reason alone I don't post reviews. If you see my comments in various places, you'll know some of my likes and dislikes, but I don't officially review what I've read. It's like of like having someone find out that I read SF/F and they ask, "What's good?" You can reply by trying to qualify what they like and suggesting something similar, but I've found that people who ask me that question are looking for a snap response. That drives me nuts.

Of course, I do have opinions about what I read, but I don't like to trumpet them in public. I have a lot of respect for people who work hard at putting prose on the paper, and I don't like to demean their efforts by an LJ post that could easily be taken out of context.

So I'm wondering if the lines have blurred, if things have changed enough because there's just so much more communication, that it's permissible for authors to note the review, or acknowledge it without somehow being a damper.

I think it does become harder in the internet age to keep that distance. You can't help but see the reviews (or the star rating) on places like Amazon when you visit, and the line of separation between author and reader/fan blurs to the point of non-existence. (Hell, look at this response right here.) At the same time, we can't put the genie back in the bottle, so we have to find our own ways of coping.

Oh, and before I forget, I'm going to WFC in Columbus, Ohio this year. Yes, this is a bit last-minute. Is anyone else going?

This is going to drive me bananas before it's all over. No, I can't go because of finances, and this is probably the closest WFC or WorldCon is ever going to be to my physical location (only 120 miles up I-71). If you get the chance and you like German food, I hear Schmidt's is really good.