Bad reviews

review

There’s a book reviewer who goes out of her way to say mean things about my work. She spends her own hard-earned cash in order to buy my novels and then, rip me apart online.

I find this all very confusing.

I’m not only a writer but also a reader, which means I’m reading all the time. If I start reading a book and don’t like it, I put it down because I don’t have time to read a book I don’t like. There are too many other wonderful, beautiful books out there waiting for me. They scream my name in dreams. (“Read us, Sara. Reeeeead us!”) Why waste time on a book that doesn’t tickle your fancy when there are so many books that might?

Beyond the time spent reading, she takes thoughtful time to write terrible things about me as a writer and as a person, and it all just seems like so much work. Why does she punish herself with negativity? Why does she upset herself on purpose?

I say I think this is confusing, but maybe I don’t.

Isn’t this what we’re looking for when we scan through Twitter or the national news? There is so much annoying shit out there; it’s like we actively go looking for it. We can’t wait to respond with a scathing comment to something that annoys us, angers us, offends us …

Isn’t this what we do when we gossip? Especially as a woman, I know I love a good gossip fest. It’s fun digging into other people—pointing out their flaws—because then, I can avoid my own.

“I might not be perfect, but look at her.”

“My marriage is tough sometimes, but we’re better than that couple.”

“Did you see the article he posted on Facebook? I can’t believe he thinks like that.”

It’s so easy to fixate on the negative. My therapist says it’s easy to be depressed; getting better is difficult. She also likes to remind me (especially when I tumble into negative self-talk), “We all think we aren’t good enough.” And that emotion manifests itself in many ways, whether through our online presence or day-to-day conversations or even our own internal monologues.

I made a promise to myself years ago: don’t read bad reviews. They don’t do anything but bring me down. They make the work suffer, because bad reviews make me question myself and if I’m worthy of creating. I am aware of the book reviewer who hates my work (and seemingly hates me by proxy), but I don’t actually read her reviews. Friends have read them and shout their frustrations, but I won’t allow myself a detailed study of everything that’s “wrong” with me.

It’s easy to avoid the one-star reviews on Goodreads. It’s not so easy to do in real life. It’s difficult to avoid the gossip, comparisons, and negative self-talk. If only a warning light blinked right before an annoying tweet or a destructive conversation. I’m not suggesting blinders; I am suggesting we all act a little nicer to other people and ourselves.

2 thoughts on “Bad reviews”

  1. The reviewer you mention seems to have some ulterior motive, such as wanting to see her own writing in print, preferably when it’s critical of someone else. It’s the textual equivalent of wanting to hear the sound of one’s own voice. Such reviewers constitute an internet phenomenon, mainly because in cyberspace we are all critics. To be authoritative, a book critic has to be employed by someone who sends them review copies; they shouldn’t have to buy them themselves. I ignore reviews of my work work written by some nerd in a South London bedsit who knows anyone in the world can see her/his posts. Their delusion lies in the fact that no-one reads them except the gullible author.

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  2. For 5 years I was sent books to read by an established publishing company. They asked me what kind of work I liked and promptly told me they would send me stuff I wouldn’t like because they needed someone to rip the work apart and write about it in order for them to understand if/when to publish it as part of their production. I don’t know if it’s a standard procedure but it was obviously done without the author knowing it. The agent would then be told if they intended to buy or not. What came out – most times – was that a book that wasn’t “good” for them was perfect for another publishing house. (No judgment on the value of the work per se) At times they exchanged manuscripts during the process. All this to say that being a critic is hard work and has guidelines and procedures. Ripping someone apart online is NOT being a critic.

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