This year has opened up to some major drama and fallout which is mostly linked to the YA blogging world. It’s no secret this week’s huge blowout, concerning The Story Siren’s issue of plagiarism, has been a real doozy in epic proportions. The Smart Bitches, The Book Lantern, and The Book Binge offer a great summary about the whole affair. What I found astounding is the message that’s being sent around blogosphere, most specifically the YA blogging community.
This year has also been pretty vicious with reviewers facing negative responses to their reviews by detractors that paint them to be mean, and unprofessional. Apparently, reviewers live to bash authors and live to hate.
We have and will continue to come across books that do not live up to its promise because it subjectively didn’t work for us. And there will be books which have flaws and issues that will bring out strong emotions. Authors who publish books do so knowing it’s out in the public sphere. It is a business, not a romantic idealised notion where an author has to be dealt with cotton wool and gloves. And I don’t understand why this issue has cropped up again and again because some authors aren’t able to handle a negative review.
Yesterday, there was a blowup over Jennifer Armintrout’s recaps of 50 Shades of Grey, where commentators felt she had no right to review or comment on another author’s book. Jamie Mcguire (who had own recent issues with negative reviews) used this as an opportunity to highlight and confuse the issue of an author’s right to review, to reviewers who apparently live to bash authors, and love to be haters. What I found troubling is that commentators were complaining and blasting Jennifer Armintrout because she was an author, and had no right to review a book especially since it was snarkily written.
I just want to share a few examples of authors and critics from the literary field who have slated books. Please take note that I’m citing and QUOTING these quotes below, taken from The Huffington Post, and Flavorwire.
“Every time I read Pride and Prejudice I want to dig her up and hit her over the skull with her own shin bone.”
– Mark Twain on Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice *
“Never have I read such tosh. As for the first two chapters, we will let them pass, but the third, the fourth the fifth the sixth – merely the scratchings of pimples on the body of the boot-boy at Claridges.”
– Virginia Woolf on James Joyce’s Ulysses *
“I HATED [Catcher in the Rye]. It took me days to go through it, gingerly, a page at a time, and blushing with embarrassment for him every ridiculous sentence of the way. How can they let him do it?”
– Elizabeth Bishop on J.D. Salinger **
“Nobody can be more clownish, more clumsy and sententiously in bad taste, than Herman Melville, even in a great book like ‘Moby Dick’….One wearies of the grand serieux. There’s something false about it. And that’s Melville. Oh dear, when the solemn ass brays! brays! brays!”
– D.H. Lawrence on Herman Melville **
Well, they seem influential, and authors who wrote classical literature should be deemed to be unprofessional and haters because they were just as harsh and bitchy towards their peers.
Critical discourse can be brutal and unrelenting, and book reviews is part of that territory. Some people feel comfortable in not writing critical reviews — and that’s ok, but there are those who feel strongly and have written critical pieces. Some use snark and sarcasm, and others use gifs and humorous pictures to describe what they feel about the text. It seems to be the case recently that anyone who writes a snarky book review are attacked for being mean and too harsh. It’s one thing to disagree with a book reviewer about a book, but another to call them out for being mean and an author basher. I have disagreed with my fellow pushers about books, but we’ve never called ourselves bashers.
Using emotive language such as cockroaches, sheeple bitches and bashers are ways to raise the emotional ante. This was used in the thread where Jennifer Armintrout was attacked for her snarky recaps over 50 Shades. And because of this, Jennifer L Armentrout, who has a similar name, was caught up in the fray and got backlash too.
Books like Twilight, 50 Shades of Grey, even The Hunger Games, have reached a certain point of success which will garner a much harsher critical response. That thread I linked to with Jennifer Armintrout’s recap was… interesting. People were confusing the issue of reviewing, to an author bashing another author unprofessionally. Authors have blurbed fellow author’s books, and that’s an opinion about the book because they liked it. If authors can’t have a professional opinion, then the positive aspect to blurbing on a book shouldn’t be allowed. There have been those who refuse to blurb for books or authors because they disagreed with them.
For me this week has shown a common factor that keeps cropping up all the time: the issue of BE NICE. The comments that stood out to me regarding The Story Siren were comments about her being too nice to steal content. Then there was the victim blaming the bloggers who were innocent. That wasn’t nice, and because of her fan following they didn’t see the hypocrisy and double standards of what The Story Siren did by stealing other people’s work. Kristi had a vocal stance against plagiarism which makes everything so incredibly ironic. She failed in her apology, and even more so by not asking her followers to stop attacking the bloggers and to stop sending hatemail to the victims. That would be the responsible thing to do.
BE NICE is used by people who attack bloggers and reviewers for having negative opinions, especially if it’s a favourite author of theirs. There have been cases of some authors rallying followers to stifle criticism over 3 star reviews. Being nice, for me, is not to personally attack the author, their appearance, or be personal about their lives. Actually, that’s just what a decent person does. Being nice is not to paint the negative reviewer and their supporters into cackling harpies who love to bash the poor downtrodden author. As an author there will always be people who will dislike their books, and it is a fact of life in publishing that you won’t change their minds.
What worries me the most is the message that any kind of critical response is wrong. This BE NICE message offers a safe and sanitised way to not offer any real opinions, especially if it’s a critical one. We need critical responses because if you don’t learn how to be analytical and to raise issues that concern us in a text, how can we transfer that in other aspects of life such as politics and religion? YA reviewing seems to be facing a lot of these backlashes because the message to young readers is not to state your negative feelings about a book — even if you feel strongly. YA literature deals with serious issues and why should teenagers shy away voicing a critical response? If an author can’t handle a negative response then she shouldn’t be publishing books.
We hope this post will garner a good discussion because this issue won’t go away. There won’t be any deletion of posts or blocking of people if they want to talk about these issues.
(Addition from Lou: We won’t tolerate sock puppets and trolling like what I saw on Goodreads the other night. Any of that, and I’ll call you out publicly in the comments for it.)