Sunday, April 7, 2013
Trashing Other Authors
Today I witnessed an exchange that bothered me immensely. A published author trashed another author's work on Facebook. Now, the "trasher" didn't name names or give a title, but he used an excerpt from the book. Here's the problem with that. I could go through just about any book I've ever read and carefully select a few passages to make the author sound like a dolt, a hack, or someone trying too hard. It really isn't that hard to do. Conversely, I could go just about any book and hand pick a few passages to the make the author sound like a genius. That's the nature of writing. People have different styles. That doesn't make one style better than another.
The conversation took the inevitable turn where someone suggested it must have been a self-published book. It wasn't. The book was published by Ballantine, a well known traditional publisher. Upon my last check, neither the "trasher" nor anyone else participating in the conversation had bothered to point this out. I guess those who looked it up thought it better to let the "must have been" linger out there than to clear up the misconception. Sure, I could've posted the information, and perhaps I should have. I excused myself from doing so with the excuse, perhaps lame, that I didn't want embroiled in the conversation because I found the entire exchange distasteful.
When an author trashes another author's work, the "trasher" is fairly akin to being a gossiper. I'm not talking about giving a book a fair review, but just trashing other authors' work based on what appears to be a passage or two. Let's be clear, this wasn't a book review by any means. It was posted as an example of bad writing.
People have different tastes, and an author can alienate a reader when they vehemently trash an author the reader enjoys reading. That reader may never try the trasher's work after reading his/her disdain for another author's work. Perhaps the trasher doesn't care...
As a reviewer I find this a fine line to walk. I like to review books I enjoy to share them with potential readers, and I rarely post truly bad reviews. I may post a less enthusiastic review for a book I didn't particularly enjoy than for one I loved, but to out and out trash a book or an author just isn't my style. In writing a review, I will point out what I see as flaws with the book while being careful to acknowledge things that are about my taste preferences rather than factual flaws. The reader reading my review may genuinely like the thing that annoys me. It's not my place to judge the reader for his/her taste or the author for his/her style.
As an author, I accept the fact that not everyone is going to like my work and some will hate it. Others will judge it before they ever read a word. I also know my work is never perfect. Even when I release it, I'm wondering if maybe just maybe that other word might have worked better in that one passage or if maybe I should do just one more read through just in case. No matter how many people tell me it's ready, it's good enough, there's always a sentence, a word, a comma, a period I could change.
As a reader, I've never read a perfect book no matter who wrote it or published it. I always find some small phrase that doesn't quite work or reads a bit pretentious or a bit passive in a book. Sometimes the flaw lies in punctuation or spacing. There's always something somewhere in the book that is just slightly imperfect.
At the end of the day, as soon as we pass judgment on another person, we invite judgment to be passed on us. So I have to wonder if the authors participating in the conversation feel their work is above such reproach and judgment. I've now lost interest in reading the books by the authors involved in the conversation, so I guess I'll never know if their work is above the judgment and reproach they leveled on the other author...
T. L. Cooper grew up on a farm in Tollesboro, Kentucky. She earned a Bachelor of Science from Eastern Kentucky University. Her poems, short stories, articles, and essays have appeared online, in books, and in magazines. Her published work includes a novel, All She Ever Wanted, five books of poetry, and a book of short stories. When not writing, she enjoys yoga, golf, creating plant-based recipes, and traveling. Currently, she resides in Albany, Oregon.