In Praise of Readers
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.