I know, I know. This has been discussed ad naseum recently (especially with the recent BTT!). But for the most part I kept quiet during many of the discussions to see what people had to say.
And I swear that I’ve had a post all ready to go that I had to change the name to The Ethics of Book Reviews, Part 2, because I think this part of the post, which I was going to do anyway, should be discussed first.
First I want to thank everyone for their support during the couple days of craziness that That Which Will Not Be Named. I read every single comment and was very appreciative of your support. Believe me, that was not an easy couple of days!
Second, I wanted to go back to address a few things about THIS, aka That Which Will Not Be Named.
Regarding That Which Will Not Be Named, I was angry about two things. First, someone left an anonymous comment on this negative book review (I’ve publicly accused the author, and the author mentioned it was a friend of his, but seeing his doggedness on calling out bloggers on “lies” they’ve spread about him, I can deduce that this comment was left by the author himself since he hasn’t doggedly denied the accusation). For some reason, the whole anonymous commenter thing really bothers me. More about that later.
Second, the author sent me an email demanding I remove the picture of the cover and the quote I’d used from the book, stating it was copyrighted material and I had not been given permission to use them. It turns out my use is covered under Fair Use, but the author was betting on the fact that I would be intimidated by copyright law and the fact that he’s an attorney. The email came from his law firm’s email address, and that, coupled with the wording of the email, left me no doubt that the author was trying to intimidate and bully me. A lawsuit, while not specifically threatened, was definitely implied. This struck me in the gut as so very wrong, and I decided that I wouldn’t be bullied when I hadn’t done anything wrong. Was I scared about a possible lawsuit? Uh, YEAH. Did I have friends and readers recommending I remove the text and cover just so I wouldn’t have to deal with him? YES. Could this be a complete mistake on my part? Maybe. But bullies like this become and continue to be bullies because the good people won’t stand up to them. This was my way of standing up to a bully.
Anonymous Comments and Comments From Authors
I’m totally aware that I probably should let anonymous comments go. Some bloggers have said that letting anonymous comments go or not responding to mean comments from authors is “taking the higher ground.” But is it? I don’t know.
There’s a saying about arguing with a fool, and when I looked it up, I got two different versions:
Never argue with a fool, onlookers may not be able to tell the difference. ~Author unknown, attributed to Mark Twain
When you’re arguing with a fool, make sure he isn’t doing the same thing.
So how far should it go? Let the comment stand as-is?
I believe that my blog is here to create a dialogue. Hopefully I’m not talking into a void, and I respond via email to many comments left on my blog. I really try to be clear and concise in what I write, so that even if someone disagrees with me (which I like!!), I don’t have to respond because both of our arguments stand on their own merit.
HOWEVER, I do think that some comments warrant a public response. I admit that I could totally be wrong on this, and maybe after reading people comments (or after I’ve been blogging longer), I’ll feel differently. But right now, I think one response to a nasty comment, even if multiple comments are left, is okay. I have the gift (or curse, in my opinion) of being concise, so I rarely go on and on about things, even a nasty comment. Because of this particular-ness of my personality, I think it’s okay for me to respond once to a nasty comment.
You may not know it, but I’ve let other author comments stand on their own, without a need to respond. I didn’t feel a need to respond, though, because I stated my case in my post, the author stated her case, and that was that. The author didn’t attack me or say anything that I thought warranted a response. I should point out, though, that I did dedicate a whole post to a comment that I thought was totally unfair, and I admit that maybe the comment didn’t need it’s own post, but I also gave the author of the comment free “air time” when she apologized, as I didn’t feel right publicly refuting her comment and then not letting everyone know about her super nice comment afterwards.
One thing this situation did was really make people discuss book reviews and how honest they should be. From the comments I read, I believe most people think reviews should be polite and that the reviewer should highlight at least one positive.
I don’t know if I agree or disagree. But here’s what I think:
A reviewer should write something that they wouldn’t have a problem telling the author to their face. I would not be embarassed if the author read any of my quote-unquote negative reviews. The author might not be my new best friend, but hopefully they won’t hate me.
There’s one review in particular, from a blogger, that’s stuck with me. I won’t give you any identifying characteristics of the review, other than to say the reviewer gave a three or four sentence synopsis and then said something to the effect of “This book sucks. You shouldn’t read this unless you’re a masochist.” I was actually embarassed as a blogger to see something like that. Would the reviewer say that to the author’s face? REALLY? I doubt it. The reviewer would probably say something like, “Well, it wasn’t for me.” But I doubt the reviewer would have been as harsh to the author’s face as they were in their review.
That’s one end of the spectrum.
On the other end is the people who won’t give bad reviews, I assume for fear of hurting the author’s feelings, which I totally get. But Michele at Michele – One ‘L’ left this comment: How are they [people reading your blog] going to believe the ‘really great’ reviews if those are the only books you share?
And I get it! I do! I don’t like writing ho-hum reviews. I hate it, in fact, that I can’t write to every single author and gush over their work.
But for me, my blog is a forum to discuss books the way I would discuss them with my friends, albeit I’m often more formal on my blog as far as the reviews go. Would I only discuss the good books with my friends? Of course not! And while I might rip apart a book with my friends in private, I would never do so in public, which is why I won’t do so here.
To sum it all up, let me just say this: I’ll probably continue to call anonymous commenters on the carpet if their comment is rude or mean. That’s also my way of exposing their stupidity for what it is. Also, I’ll continue to review everything I read, and while a review might not be positive, it will always be fair and I will never make fun of an author on this blog. Except maybe Nicholas Sparks. But what does that guy care what I think? He’s laughing all the way to the bank.