Snarkling Clean

Snarkling Clean- because you don't have to cuss to make fun of stuff. Two dedicated readers discuss romance novels- from what made us weep with joy to what made us want to poke pencils through our eyeballs.

Sunday, December 31, 2006

In Praise of Readers

There's a post over on Romancing the Blog that kind of irritated me. The poster is complaining about slasher-bloggers; nasty reviewers. I've read this complaint more times than I have fingers and toes on which to count. Yes, some reviewers are nasty and go way too far. Apparently. I don't know which slashers she's accusing, since she won't name them, and I can only think of a few sites that have gone overboard, and that's only with one or two authors. She seems to want all reviewers to be, using her word, Pollyannas. To focus on the positive, and only give negatives if they are couched in the tenderest apologies. Buddha on a nine dollar cracker, have you heard of the concept of free speech? I for one am tired of hearing how snarky readers who post a bad review are responsible for bad sales, bad feelings, and the demise of civilization as we know it.

The comments section brought up some very interesting points. Amazon reviews were cited as major nastiness pits, but I find that somewhat laughable. I humbly beg your pardon if you post reviews there, but to me, Amazon is not a discussion board. It's a bookstore. Reviews there are the equivalent of some poor schmoe lurking outside Barnes and Noble who jumps on you when you come out. "Did you buy That Book by This Author? You did? Well let me tell you what I thought..." I would not be interested in that person's opinion- I'd want to get away as fast as I could before I was infected. As for nasties that only post anonymously: why would I care about the opinion of someone who wasn't brave enough to give me her name, or smart enough to give me a fake one?

I must point out that some authors have charged that their private lives and characters have been maligned, and that is just wrong. I can find all kinds of things wrong with a book without thinking the author is a miscreant. Conversely, I can absolutely love a book without thinking the author is a shining angel. The ripping of a book is free speech. The ripping of an author is the act of a cowardly bully.

That said, I have to agree with a good number of commenters who both praised reader blogs and defended their right to snark, nasty or not. Some quotes: (BTW, some do not have blogs or links. Please see the comments section of the RtB post for the ones who do.)

Tara Marie: "Where’s the turning point between snarkisism and mean-spirited snarkisism? Who determines what qualifies as “ethical literary criticism”? Can ethical literary criticism ever be snarky or are we to believe that only glowing positive and tepid negative reviews qualify as ethical?"

Robin: "I get a little nervous, though, when talk starts about how so-called slasher bloggers only “want attention,” though, because it seems to me the real anxiety on the part of some authors might be that those bloggers are taking attention away from both the author and the so-called cheerleader bloggers. Because no one accuses a blogger who writes a A+++++++++ “best book evah” review of seeking attention. If a so-called slashing review can take away attention from an author’s book, well, is that only a reflection of the review, or of the book, as well? Or at least of the Romance culture?"

Yes, I chimed in as well: "Any snarkiness comes out of my natural smartass personality. Some will find it funny, and others will find it juvenile and annoying. That’s fine. Any book reviews I do (and there really aren’t many) are not intended to be literary discussions. It’s just me, talking with my girlfriends over coffee at the kitchen table about the latest thing I read. Am I going to bring up the wonderful, tender moments that made me catch my breath? You bet. Do I gush over wonderful characterization or plot? Of course. Am I going to call out WTH? when I read something I find incomprehensible? Yep. Will I tell readers about the thud as I threw the hated thing against the wall? Yes, I will."

Karen Scott: "I see a lot of hand slapping and tut-tutting, but when was the last time anybody gave props to the readers out there who are buying your books and talking about them?"

And the best for last, from Jane: "But readers should be able to converse with other readers, no matter the tone, if they want to. The online community of readers is so bright, vibrant and interesting, that it seems natural to want to share our thoughts with each other. The old form was email loops and listservs which graduated to public message boards and forums which now has evolved to blogs and comments. Personally, I love the blogs, the different flavors, from the positive to the negative. All this chatter means that we love this genre. We love it and we are grateful to the authors who make it alive."

Well spoken. Yes, I snark; but romance is the genre I bathe in. If I did not adore it I would not work up enough enthusiasm to post about it. So I give a big shout out to reader blogs, snarky or sunshiny. The romance world wouldn't spin without you, and it sure wouldn't be as much fun. Keep writing.


Anonymous spyscribbler said...

Amen, Robyn!

Some people get SO down on negativity on blogs, and act as if those people are the worst people in the world. Okay, snarking is different from negativity, but I'm feeling like a tangent (sorry!).

Everyone has bad days. And you know what? Some people are just that way. I was watching my Aunt at Christmas, and all day long, not one single nice thing came out of her mouth.

She can't help it. She's not being mean; that's just how she is. She has feelings that are easily hurt, even though she doesn't seem to be aware of how negative she is. People are the way they are. That doesn't make her a horrible person. She's got a good heart under those thorns.

To get back to your subject (sorry, you inspired a rant in me, LOL!), sunshiny reviews don't catch my attention as much as a snarky one. I've heard 10,000 people tell me how horrible a certain book was, and you know what? After 10,001, I went and bought the book. If it sold so many copies, how bad could it truly be?

7:45 PM  
Blogger Bernita said...

I love this blog.

3:15 AM  
Anonymous Jenny said...

Hell yes.

I love the snark. As long as it's funny or smart or true I think it's wothwhile. It's not for everyone...much like The Superficial or Eddie Izzard or any of the other offensive but brilliant things that make me laugh or nod and say "Yes! It's not just me."

Of course the line is when it's not funny or true and is just mean. No point in reading that drivel.

Keep righting the good stuff, my friend.

Happy New Year!

8:47 AM  
Blogger December Quinn said...

Ahhh...blogs back to normal.

I chimed in there as well, couldn't resist.

10:14 AM  
Anonymous Michelle said...

I like to hear honest feedback about books, but it drives me nuts when RT gives 4 1/2 star reviews to veteran romance novelists, and that particular book is so awful I want to set it on fire. Then you have relatively newer authors who write an awesome book and they only get 3 stars. The system seems fixed, you know?

2:52 PM  
Blogger Jen said...

I can see both sides of this issue. But I have to say that it would be nice to be able to say EXACTLY what I think of a book without risking publish censure. And I mean "publish". After all, as an author, I'd like to have a career. As a reader, I'd LOVE to have an opinion. Unfortunately, the two don't always go together.
But that was my choice when I started writing.
It is refreshing to see a site that says exactly what they think without regards to publishing royalty.

8:21 PM  
Anonymous Sharon said...

I agree completely, Robyn. I don't think it's a surprise that many authors are aghast, stunned, taken aback whatever that suddenly opinions of their books are spread far and wide for public viewing. Before the advent of blogs, reviews were a very isolated thing. Amazon? Well, I don't know many readers or authors who take anything posted to amazon that seriously. But suddenly there are a lot of INTELLIGENT, outspoken people more than willing to articulate their opinions about a book, good and bad. And I think as a result, a lot of authors are in a tailspin because before they were pretty much sheltered from the fallout. The internet is a very open place. Search engines make the world much smaller *g*

Author seem willing to villify the naysayers but what about the bloggers who have gone above and beyond to pimp a wonderful book? What about an author who gets a ton of online buzz strictly because bloggers and review sites talked up their books?

Most of the blog sites I read have one thing in common. They're passionate both in their love and their dislike of certain books. And isn't that what authors want? A reader to be passionate?

Give me outright hatred over ho hum anyday. At least then I know my book struck a chord. My feelings would get hurt a lot more over a "eh this was meh" than a "omg this was the worst piece of shit ever written" Maybe I'm twisted that way ;)

2:46 PM  
Blogger Carla said...

I read that RTB post too, and was a bit puzzled by it, probably because they didn't name the reviews they were complaining about so I couldn't tell whether they had a point or not. I find content-free reviews a waste of time, whether they say "Wow, fab, 5 stars, coulndt put it down!!!!" or "Complete crap minus 5 stars dont waste yor money on this", and as soon as a 'review' starts pontificating on the author's morals/character/private life/political views instead of discussing the book, I stop reading. I've no sympathy for personal attacks.

I like reviews that say "I liked/hated/was bored by/didn't believe this because.....". It doesn't matter whether they're negative or positive, as long as they're honest and say something specific about the book to help me judge whether I want to spend time and money on it. Quite often a feature that a reviewer thinks is negative ("Boring, too much history!") will be a positive for me, and vice versa. So when I review books I try to say what I thought and why, so that somebody reading the review can make their own mind up.

Seems to me that complaining about snarky reviews hurting sales is assuming that readers aren't capable of thinking for themselves. They are. Reader blogs prove it.

3:29 AM  

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