Disclaimer: Some of my best friends are reviewers…
QUIBBLES & BITS
To read a review, or not to read a review: that is the question:
Whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer
The slings and arrows of outrageous reviews,
Or to take arms against a sea of reviewers,
And by ignoring end them? To die: to sleep;
No more; and by a sleep to say we end
The heart-ache and the thousand natural shocks
That flesh is heir to, ’tis a consummation
Devoutly to be wish’d. To read a review, to ignore a review: perchance to skim a review [and look for a line to quote, even if you have to use three dots]: aye, there’s the rub; For in that review of death what dreams may crush…
Responding to critics of Carnal Knowledge, Mike Nichols said, "A critic at a movie is a eunuch at a gangbang."
Which made me think…
How many times have we banged our heads against our keyboards because the person who reviewed our books didn’t "get it"?
Or even worse, didn’t read it?
Or was just plain nasty?
When my history-mystery-romance Dream Dancer came out, a reviewer whom I’ll call Ms. Axtogrind attacked me personally, then said that halfway through the book my hero burned to death in a circus fire. I don’t think I’m giving anything away when I say my hero didn’t die, though my heroine thought he did. Ms. Axtogrind was fired shortly thereafter (apparently, I wasn’t the only author to experience her misguided slings and arrows), but her vitriolic rhetoric impacted my sales. After all, would you buy a romance where the hero burns to death?
Unless, of course, the hero is Joan of Arc.
Long before the advent of blogs, I began collecting "weird review data." My thought was to – someday – write an article. Here are a few of my favorites:
Jack Williamson, a science fiction author, got a review which said he wrote like a comic strip writer. Someone saw the review and hired Williamson to write a SF comic strip called "Beyond Mars."
Writing about John Wassermann’s novel, Exit Wounds, a reviewer said, "Clearly the author has never been inside a police station. His policemen are vulgar and crass." Westermann, who spent 21 years as a cop, said, "Crass and vulgar? Some of my people consider it an art form."
When Greg Herron’s Murder in the Rue Dauphine was reviewed, the one thing the reviewer harped on was that "outside of the main character, Herron doesn’t get inside the heads of his characters. It would have been nice to know what was going on inside their heads as well." Considering the fact that the novel was written in first-person and the main character wasn’t a psychic, Herron kind of scratched his head over that one.
In a review of an anthology of Civil War stories, the reviewer assumed Patti (P.G.) Nagle’s story was a romance because of its title, The Courtship of Captain Swenk. "He obviously hadn’t read the story," Patti said, "because it wasn’t romantic at all. The Captain is courting an old battleaxe widow as an excuse for spying activities."
Janet Dawson’s PW review for Where the Bodies are Buried sniped at her because her heroine/sleuth didn’t figure out who the killer was until the end of the book. [‘Nuff said, although Janet says, "That was the most idiotic hatchet job I’ve ever seen."]
The same week the New York Times called Robert Rosenberg’s first book, Crimes of the City, the most notable thriller of 1991, the reviewer in Ha’arentz said it was a cartoon. "But I think the reviewer issue should be put in perspective," Robert said. "While my agent was trying to sell my first book, I kept asking for the rejections and she kept saying no. Finally, after she found a publisher (Simon & Shuster), she sent me a sampling of the rejections. One editor wrote: ‘The plotting is elegant, the writing pedestrian, and the characters are flat.’ Another editor wrote: ‘The writing is elegant, the plotting pedestrian and the characters are lively.’ And a third wrote that the writing was flat, the characters interesting and the plotting terrific. In other words, one can only wonder if they read the same book!"
And finally, Joe Scarpato says his favorite pan was a one-word summation of A.A. Milne’s The Red House Mystery. Joe simply wrote "Pooh!"
Have you ever thanked a reviewer for a review? Recently a Sisters in Crime sib posted (on the SinC loop) that she’d be attending Bouchercon for the very first time and that she was the author of a horror novel. I responded privately. I told her that I was a sucker for horror novels and I’d be happy to meet her for a cup of coffee or to hoist a mug. I said that I’ve been attending Bouchercons since before Noah learned to count and, although Bouchercon seems a wee bit overwhelming, it’s really not. She wrote back: "I’d love to get together. But in a way we’ve already met. I recognized your name and went to my files and sure enough I’d reviewed Beat Up A Cookie in ’94. You sent me a letter thanking me and at the bottom you said, ‘I hope we meet some day, so that I can reiterate–in person–just how much your COOKIE review meant to me.’ Wow. What are the odds? So I’m really looking forward to meeting you now."
And that’s my quote of the week! 🙂
Household Hint from Eye of Newt‘s Aunt Lillian:
To keep potatoes from budding, place an apple in the bag with the potatoes.
Authors reading this blog: Please email your favorite [outrageous] review stories to me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I’ll include them — with links to your blog and/or website — in a future Quibbles & Bits…
…or in that article I plan to write someday.
Over and Out,