Every now and then, you wake up to what you think will be a good day. For an author, that would probably be a steamy mug of coffee, a quiet space to work in, and a full day in which to lose yourself in your characters and story. There you sit, with your fingers poised over the keyboard of your computer, ready to work on your latest and greatest work in progress. A smile graces your lips and you think, today I know exactly where I am going with this chapter. You’ve spent the night wrestling with twists, turns, and character revelations, and settled upon your course of action. And then (drum roll), and then you decide to peek at your reviews on Goodreads. What a bad idea that can be! You look, you squint, your heart skips a couple of beats, and you feel your stomach sink. There it is, impossible to deny, that dreaded one or two-star review. You feel sick, not only from the standpoint of your ego but because you allow the review to get under your skin. That one or two-star review can literally rip your guts out and reduce you into a babbling idiot. You vanish, poof, and all that remains of the confident author are your insecurities and self-doubts. Forget brilliant prose and those dreams of readers clamoring to read your efforts. Even if you simultaneously receive a five-star review, it is the one or two star that casts its pall squelching your creativity. You’re back in grade school or high school, and that class bully or bitchy girl has singled you out to bear the brunt of their own frustrations and inadequacies.
You ask yourself the question that begs for an answer, why is it that the person who hates your efforts is the one that feels the necessity to expound the most? Even, when they might not have finished your book. They take pen or computer, pounding the keyboard, and rant and rave until it’s a wonder that they just don’t explode from their hypertensive efforts. It’s almost as if every inequity known to man has somehow been conveyed in the pages of your book. Please, just take a breath, it’s a novel; not everything conforms to your sensibilities. There isn’t always a happy ending, not for you, not for me, and certainly not in a book.
It’s times like these that an author would do well to grow a thick skin, perhaps something like that of a rhinoceros, or better yet a porcupine. Something that protects from the barbs, and sharpened teeth of a mad, frothing at the mouth, rabid reader. It’s funny the difference in people. I would never take the time to write a long, laborious scathing review. It would never occur to me. If a book is that bad I just move on, usually without a peep. I don’t hate the author or wish he or she ill will. Besides, my time is far too precious. I’d much prefer writing about the books that have moved me, informed me, opened doors for me, entertained me. Ah, but that’s what differentiates us, that is the difference between vanilla and chocolate. After all, that is all a review really is, one person’s opinion, and very often that person holds no special degree in literary criticism, do they?
I am reminded of what Kurt Vonnegut thought about the matter: “As for literary criticism in general; I have long felt that any reviewer who expresses rage and loathing for a novel or a play or a poem is preposterous. He or she is like a person who has put on full armor and attacked a hot fudge sundae, or a banana split.”
Now that I got that off my chest, it’s back to the computer and writing! But I must say a banana split does sound tempting.