Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Once more into the breach

I have been informed that a review I wrote doesn't sit well with the author. That happens. I have said, and continue to say, that that one man's trash is another man's treasure and that reviewing anything is very subjective. I am by no means the last authority on anything other than my opinion based on my experience. However, there were some comments aimed at me that are not subjective and those I will answer.

First of all, I love nearly everything Stephen King writes, almost all of which I have read, but even he hits some clunkers from time to time. J. K. Rowling, other than being a bit long-winded at times makes up for her wordiness by engaging the reader so much you forget you just read over 500 pages. I have never found fault with either writer and I look forward to their books like I looked forward to Xmas morning as a child. I don't care for Tom Clancy's writing but I'm not much into male escapist fantasy. I have the same problem with Clive Cussler, which the writer didn't mention. I adore the first chapter of Clive Cussler's books for the history he illustrates so realistically but he loses me down the road. A close friend and well known writer adored Cussler's books. I don't. I don't consider any of these writers hacks or sell-outs. I never have. I wish I had been as lucky and were as well read. And, yes, luck plays a very big part in being published.

Contrary to what the author says, I do not consider her a hack. I consider her a very good writer who has worked hard for what she has achieved. A lot of that shows in her current book, which I reviewed honestly. The structure of the book is easy to read and well planned. The execution, in my opinion, leaves a little to be desired. The focus was inconsistent, sometimes chatty and personal and other times vague and generic as if the author were filling up space because she had locked herself into a specific number of entries. I did not see, nor did the author relate, how some of the list pertained to a specific astrological sign and I gave an example. There were many examples, but I keep my reviews short and to the point so I don't belabor any specific point. Knowing the author's nonfiction articles as I do it was easy to see where her experience filled in the blanks but the author was writing a book for a specific purpose -- how to optimize your astrological pluses and minuses -- not publishing or writing in general. I see that as failing to follow through on the purpose of the book and the implicit contract the author has with the reader. I could go on.

I don't review books where I cannot separate my personal relationship from my professional opinion and that was not the case here. I did not publicize the review because I have not had time to do so, but the author commented (and then deleted her comment) hours after the review was posted. I guess my opinion mattered to her, just not the one I gave. I have given similar reviews to authors I have known for years, writers I respect. They have treated me with more professionalism.

The author also says that I should be writing my own books instead of criticizing those writers whose books are on the shelves. There she has a point. I spent the past fifteen years writing other people's books and allowing them to put their names on the books, taking my check to the bank and spending it. The words are mine but the fame and recognition is not mine. Does that mean I'm not good enough to get my own work published? Obviously not since the words were mine, as were the proposals that earned the contracts.

My review of the book was not a rave nor did I turn my thumb down. The book has a lot to commend it but it needs work to be the best it can be and I know it can be better. It is not sour grapes to yell tripe when tripe is served. The book is unique in its approach and its subject matter but it will not remain unique unless the author is willing to take a good hard look and see where the book could be better instead of descending to personal attacks and checking her opinions with friends willing to jump on her band wagon instead of looking at the review and my criticisms with a neutral and unbiased eye. Maybe the author would not be so "...fixated on this one review..." if she didn't see some truth. In fact, the author should have followed the advice given to writers under the sign of Aquarius and avoid self-indulgent run-on sentences with fifty cent words when shorter, punchier sentences would have been better.

The author also mentions holding out the olive branch of friendship as if it was a selfless act. Coming as it did after she found out I was going to review the book that olive branch could be seen as self serving. I have returned politeness for politeness, but it is this very attitude that keeps me from taking hold of the proffered olive branch. Honesty is not tolerated whenever it offers anything other than slavish compliments like those the author cites from her friends and those who say they know me and how I am.

I was willing to let the review remain unpublicized until now. Get the book from a friend or the library and read it for yourselves. Make your own judgment. Don't take my word for it. Don't take my word for any review I write because it is only my considered opinion. Remember only that it is my honest opinion and that I have no axe to grind. More prolific and better known authors have thanked me for my less than stellar reviews adding that while I pointed out some flaws I got what they were saying better than anyone else.

That is all. Disperse.

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