Sunday, February 24, 2013

Time and Perspective

There is something wonderful about finding a really good review of a book I've written and published, especially since it was my first self-published effort. I have had my share of awful reviews from people who "couldn't get into the book" and a few toilet reviews from people who didn't read the book at all, something that was obvious from what little they did write. After my shock and anger at the latter reviews and wanting to engage the reviewer in a discussion of what they hated so much about the book, I decided it was best not to publicize or even mention the awful reviews.

The urge to take on reviewers is strong. Writers want to prove that what they've written has value and the negative reviewer made a mistake. That kind of attitude serves no one, least of all the writer. All I need do is remember Anne Rice's meltdown when someone trashed one of her novels on Amazon, a review I saved and posted, to keep the dander down and the baser urges in check. Everyone is entitled to their opinions, even when the writer thinks the opinion is way off base and wrong.

Keep in mind that Dances with Wolves won several Oscars and I have never been able to get past the first 15-20 minutes of the movie without falling asleep. I like Kevin Costner (mostly) and I love movies about cowboys and indians, but didn't care for that particularly movie, though I rented it several times and slept through it every single time.

In a way, it's rather like wine. In my younger days, I preferred sweet white wines to deep, rich red wines. My tastes have changed and the reverse is now true. During those same younger days, I didn't like reading Robert A. Heinlein; I found him peurile and uninteresting. In my 30s, that changed to the opposite side of the spectrum. I love Heinlein's stories, especially Stranger in a Strange Land, and enjoy his writing, having devoured most of his books when I discovered how wonderful Heinlein was.

The same was true for Jane Austen. I couldn't get into her novels, mostly because of the language, which was rather like wading through hip deep sucking mud. Then I saw Pride and Prejudice with Colin Firth and Jennifer Ehle and decided to give the books another shot. I was transported and found myself quoting passages to friends and family. I reread Austen's novels every year or two, including the unfinished Lady Susan. Too bad Austen didn't finish the novel, or at least the end of the novel hasn't been found and published. It is a meaty piece of domestic drama of fraud.

I do live in the hope that the same writers that have put their thumbs down to my novels will give them another try and change their minds. The one thing I won't do is fret about it.

I will, however, bask in the glow of the good reviews, especially the one I read this morning. The reviewer got what I was doing with my novel, Among Women, and, while she didn't like one aspect of the book at first, she kept reading "just one more chapter" until she was completely immersed in the experience. The review was short and the result was a definite thumb up for me, but what really pleased me was that she understood the theme and meaning behind the story. I did what I set out to do, connected with at least one reader -- one person -- at a fundamental level. That makes all the negative reviews, and there really haven't been many, fade into the background.

To borrow from Austen, there is a truth universally acknowledged that an author with a list of novels must be in want of readers and is the rightful prize of some reader or other. All I can suggest is to try again with a book you weren't able to get into 5 or 10 years ago. Time and experience may have seasoned you sufficiently to change your perspective and your views.

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